In 2000, approximately 10 million women were receiving hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for alleviation of menopausal symptoms. A number of prior animal studies suggested that HRT may be neuroprotective and cardioprotective. Then, in 2003, reports from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) indicated that long-term estrogen/progestin supplementation led to increased incidence of stroke. A second branch of the WHI in women with prior hysterectomy found an even stronger correlation between estrogen supplementation alone and stroke incidence. Follow-up analyses of the data, as well as data from other smaller clinical trials, have also demonstrated increased stroke severity in women receiving HRT or estrogen alone. This review examines the studies indicating that estrogen is neuroprotectant in animal models and explores potential reasons why this may not be true in postmenopausal women. Specifically, age-related differences in estrogen receptors and estrogenic actions in the brain are discussed, with the conclusion that animal models of disease must closely mimic human disease to produce clinically relevant results.
Copyright © 2011 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.