• Open Access

Are gonadal steroid hormones involved in disorders of brain aging?


Luis M. Garcia-Segura, Instituto Cajal, C.S.I.C.; Avenue Doctor. Arce 37; 28002 Madrid, Spain. Tel. 34 915854729; fax: 34 915854754; e-mail: lmgs@cajal.csic.es


Human aging is associated with a decrease of circulating gonadal steroid hormones. Since these hormones act as trophic factors for neurones and glia, it is possible that the decrease in sex steroid levels may contribute to the increased risk of neurodegenerative disorders with advanced age. Sex steroids are neuroprotective in several animal models of central and peripheral neurodegenerative diseases, and clinical data suggest that these hormones may reduce the risk of neural pathology in aged humans. Potential therapeutic approaches for aged-associated neural disorders may emerge from studies conducted to understand the mechanisms of action of sex steroids in the nervous system of aged animals. Alterations in the endogenous capacity of the aged brain to synthesize and metabolize sex steroids, as well as possible aged-associated modifications in the signalling of sex steroid receptors in the nervous system, are important areas for future investigation.