Boosting estrogen, only in the brain | Science News

ADVERTISEMENT

MISSION CRITICAL

Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


News

Boosting estrogen, only in the brain

Selective transformation of protein into sex hormone could limit side effects

By
5:32pm, July 22, 2015
 chemical DHED

TARGETED EFFECT  The chemical DHED produces the hormone estrogen in the brain, but not the body. In mice with tissues genetically modified to light up when exposed to estrogen, pure estrogen produces a bright glowing around the internal organs (center). But mice given DHED (left) do not light up more than untreated mice (right), indicating that DHED does not become estrogen in their bodies. 

Researchers have developed a chemical that transforms into a powerful hormone once inside a rat — but only in the brain, not the body.  

A protein in rats’ brains turns a chemical nicknamed DHED into the hormone estrogen, scientists report July 22 in Science Translational Medicine. This targeted treatment could provide estrogen to the brain and avoid potentially dangerous side effects in the body, the researchers say.

“This is an interesting breakthrough,” says neuroendocrinologist Bruce McEwen of the Rockefeller University in New York City. The idea of treatments that affect the brain but not the body, or the body but not the brain, could be useful in treating a number of conditions, including cancer, he says. But the implications of this study for hormone replacement therapy in women is up for debate, a number of researchers say.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content