Gonadotropins and Alzheimer's disease: the link between estrogen replacement therapy and neuroprotection
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The search for a definitive gender bias in Alzheimer's disease has resulted in a multitude of epidemiological findings that point to a higher prevalence and incidence of Alzheimer's disease in women. Due to this reported predisposition of women to Alzheimer's disease, the sex steroid estrogen has become the primary focus of research in this field, however, inconclusive data regarding estrogen replacement therapy has lead some researchers to further investigate the role of the other hormones of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis that have been, for the most, part overlooked. The hormones of the HPG axis, such as the gonadotropin, (luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone), are involved in regulating reproductive function via a complex feedback loop. We propose that it is in fact the increase in gonadotropin concentrations and not the decrease in steroid hormone (e.g., estrogen) production following menopause/andropause that results in an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, when the role of gonadotropins is taken into account, the data obtained from recent epidemiological studies and randomized trials suggesting the ineffectiveness estrogen may indeed be misinterpreted. In this review, we examine how hormones of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, in particular the gonadotropins, play a central and determining role in modulating the susceptibility to and progression of Alzheimer's disease. Based on this, we suggest that therapeutic interventions targeted at gonadotropins could both prevent disease in those patients currently asymptomatic or halt, and even reverse, disease in those currently afflicted.
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M. A. Smith, Institute of Pathology, CaseWestern Reserve University, 2085 Adelbert Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA