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Androgenic hormones – A new treatment for multiple sclerosis

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Androgenic hormones – A new treatment for multiple sclerosis

According to an article published in the journal Brain, androgenic hormones could be the basis of a new treatment for multiple sclerosis and other demyelinating neurological diseases. Multiple sclerosis, the most common demyelinating disease of the central nervous system, is an autoimmune inflammatory disease, that generally evolves with attacks and remissions.

Multiple sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease that occurs due to autoimmune attack on myelinated axons in the central nervous system. This progressive demyelination leads over time to neurological deficits that can seriously affect the patient’s life. MS can give virtually any neurological deficit, but more often the disease begins with retrobulbar optic neuritis (which leads to vision problems), diplopia, ataxia (difficulty in walking), motor deficits, impaired urinate (urinary incontinence, urinary retention ) etc..  General symptoms may also be present such as myalgia, arthralgia, weight loss, disturbed cognition, depression etc. There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, there is only symptomatic treatment. There are used corticosteroids as acute treatment, and as chronic treatment, the medication includes interferon, monoclonal antibodies, immunosuppressants (methotrexate, cyclophosphamide, etc.).

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis

It is not clear what triggers the autoimmune attack on myelinated axons, although there have been put into question  several factors, such as infectious factors, environmental factors, etc.. What was observed was that treatment with contraceptives and pregnancy lower the risk of relapse. Conversely, postpartum period increases the risk, so it is believed that androgens play an important role in disease pathogenesis.

The study led by Dr Said Ghandour shows that androgen receptors may be new therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Researchers at the Laboratoire d’Imagery et de Neurosciences Cognitives, have done many experiments on animals and showed that testosterone and a synthetic analog help regenerate oligodendrocytes, the cells of the nervous system with a role in myelination of axons. The researchers first induced demyelination in mice by adding  cuprizone in their diet, a molecule that sequesters copper. Then they administered testosterone to mice for 6 or 9 weeks and found that axons began to myelinate. In addition, it seems that the synthetic testosterone analogue, 7-alpha-methyl-19-nortestosterone (MENT), has the same effect.

What the researchers discovered was that androgens induce transformation of neural stem cells into oligodendrocytes, which in turn induce myelination of axons. Moreover, it seems that remyelinization is dependent on testosterone. In mice in which there were selectively inactivated receptors for androgenic hormones, or in those with mutated androgen receptors, testosterone was not effective, meaning it did not cause remyelinization of axons.