Alzheimers Disease Treatment Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy is a highly controversial area of Alzheimer’s treatment. Estrogen and testosterone, two reproductive hormones, appear to have some connection to Alzheimer’s disease. Much more research is necessary, however, to determine whether hormone therapy for Alzheimer’s is a safe and effective treatment option.

Estrogen and Alzheimer’s Treatment

Amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, form when clumps of beta-amyloid, a naturally occurring protein, build up between neurons in the brain. Although amyloid plaques can occur as part of the aging process, they’re much more prevalent in Alzheimer’s sufferers. Scientists are uncertain about the role these play in Alzheimer’s disease.

Research shows that estrogen may prevent the accumulation of beta-amyloid clumps in the brain by stimulating the breakdown of beta-amyloid. This finding has sparked interest in estrogen as a potential Alzheimer’s treatment.

Hormone Therapy for Alzheimer’s

Hormone therapy, or hormone replacement therapy, utilizes medication that contains one or more female hormones, usually estrogen and synthetic progesterone called “progestin.” Doctors typically prescribe hormone replacement therapy to ease symptoms of menopause. As yet, studies on hormone therapy for Alzheimer’s haven’t produced promising results.

According to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation (2003), the largest, most comprehensive studies thus far haven’t found hormone replacement therapy to have any therapeutic benefit for women over 65 who have Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have discovered that hormone replacement therapy with estrogen may even increase the risk of dementia.

As is the case with several other potential Alzheimer’s treatment options, timing may be everything. Researchers with the Mayo Clinic (2007) announced the results of a large-scale study on the effects of hormone replacement therapy. They found that women who had one or both ovaries removed prior to menopause were at a greater risk for developing dementia. However, women who had both ovaries removed, but also received hormone replacement therapy with estrogen until at least age 50, didn’t exhibit a greater risk for dementia. The scientists concluded that hormone replacement therapy might be an effective Alzheimer’s treatment if taken prior to menopause.

Testosterone for Alzheimer’s Treatment

A recent study has uncovered a connection between testosterone and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists at the National Institute on Aging (2004) discovered that men who developed Alzheimer’s disease had lower levels of free testosterone circulating in the bloodstream prior to being diagnosed. Based on these findings, researchers are studying hormone replacement therapy with testosterone supplements.

Resources

American Health Assistance Foundation. (n.d.). Potential Alzheimer’s treatments. Retrieved June 15, 2010, from http://www.ahaf.org/alzheimers/treatment/potential/.

Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. (n.d.) Alzheimer’s research aimed at prevention. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.alzinfo.org/alzheimers-research-prevention.asp#3.

Jaffe, A. B. et al. (1994). Estrogen regulates metabolism of Alzheimer’s amyloid beta precursor protein. Retrieved June 23, 2010, from http://www.jbc.org/content/269/18/13065.full.pdf html.

Mayo Clinic. (2008). Alzheimer’s treatments: What’s on the horizon? Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-treatments/AZ00048.

Mayo Clinic. (2007). Mayo clinic research shows estrogen protects women’s brains prior to menopause; ovary removal before menopause increases risk of cognitive impairment. Retrieved June 19, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/news2007-rst/4203.html.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Hormone therapy. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007111.htm.

U.S. National Institutes of Health National Institute of Aging. (2004) Estrogen-alone hormone therapy could increase risk of dementia in older women. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/NewsAndEvents/PressReleases/PR20040622EstrogenAloneHormone.htm.

U.S. National Institutes of Health National Institute of Aging. (2004) Low free testosterone levels linked to Alzheimer’s disease in older men. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/ResearchInformation/NewsReleases/Archives/PR2004/ PR20040126testosterone.htm.

U.S. National Institutes of Health National Institute of Aging. (2008). The Hallmarks of AD. Retrieved April 24, 2010, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/Unraveling/Part2/hallmarks.htm.