Could estrogen help treat Parkinson’s?
Roughly 600,000 people across the United States and Canada suffer from Parkinson’s disease and researchers have long been aware of the increased risk that comes with age. Men and postmenopausal women have a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s than premenopausal women do, which lead researchers to examine the link between estrogen and Parkinson’s. A recent study in mice concluded that estrogen may indeed be directly correlated to rates of Parkinson’s and gives hope that estrogen might form the basis of future treatments.
Understanding the etiology of Parkinson’s crucial to finding a cure
Like many other neurodegenerative diseases, there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s. While there are treatments to help alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s, understanding the etiology of the disease is critical to finding a cure.
While treatments are not yet available, scientists have at least identified the primary cause of Parkinson’s: a mutated, shorter-than-normal version of a protein called alpha-synuclein.
“[Alpha-synuclein] congregates inside the dopamine-producing neurons that are responsible for coordinating movements and forms structures called Lewy bodies and neurites. Over time, the buildup of alpha-synuclein prevents brain cells from functioning and, eventually, they die. The resultant loss of neurons causes the movement problems that are characteristic of Parkinson’s, such as tremors and rigidity.”
What studies showed
Earlier studies, like one conducted in 2004 by a team of Italian researchers, created the framework for the 2019 study from Harvard Medical School. Furthermore, a research team from Mayo Clinic found that women whom had one or both of their ovaries removed had an increased rate of cognitive decline and increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The theory was taking root—estrogen plays a part in protecting the brain.
In a mouse-based trial, Harvard researchers found that the female mice had less severe symptoms of degeneration than their male counterparts, which were further improved with estrogen therapy. The male mice had a slower rate of nerve loss and improved motor symptoms with estrogen therapy. Although the mechanisms behind estrogen’s “neuroprotective powers,” are not yet fully understood, these initial findings are promising.
While it seems we are still a long way from finding a cure, if you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a WorldCare Medical Second Opinion will ensure your diagnosis is accurate and that you are receiving optimal care. If you are a WorldCare Member diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, contact WorldCare today to request a medical second opinion.