Do Hormones Influence Alzheimer’s Disease?

IMAGE CREDIT: NIH Research Matters

Research shows that women are at greater risk than men for developing Alzheimer’s disease over their lifetimes. The disease also tends to get worse faster in women, and women experience a broader range of cognitive symptoms related to thinking, learning, and memory.

Recent research led by Dr. Mone Zaidi from Mount Sinai and Dr. Keqiang Ye from Emory University in the United States of America has examined the many roles a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) plays in the body.

FSH levels rise sharply in women around the time of menopause. Previous studies showed that blocking FSH in mice can prevent weight gain and reduce bone loss, which are two other common changes in women’s bodies during and after menopause.

The team investigated whether FSH is involved in the development of Alzheimer’s, and the results were published on the 2nd March 2022, in Nature magazine.

The researchers first put mice engineered to develop Alzheimer’s disease into a menopausal state. Levels of FSH rose in the blood of these mice. They also had accelerated cognitive decline and a build-up of amyloid beta plaques and tau tangles in their brains, which are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

When the researchers gave the mice an antibody that blocked FSH, these effects were much less severe. Male mice, which also produce FSH, but in much smaller quantities, also had less amyloid beta build-up in the brain after treatment with the antibody.

The team further found that giving injections of FSH to both female and male mice engineered to develop Alzheimer’s accelerated development of the disease. In contrast, differing levels of estrogen, another hormone, didn’t affect the development of cognitive symptoms. “We are excited and cautiously optimistic that the molecule FSH may play an important role in Alzheimer’s disease, bone loss, and obesity simultaneously,” Dr. Zaidi said.

The team has developed an antibody to block FSH in people and is now testing it for safety in animal models. They hope to eventually test it in clinical trials for the prevention of Alzheimer’s as well as bone loss and obesity.

You can access the research report here: Xiong J, et al. FSH blockade improves cognition in mice with Alzheimer’s disease. Nature. 2022;603(7901):470-476. doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-04463-0.

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