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2006 Grant - Toran-Allerand
Estrogen and Neurogenesis in Aging and Alzheimer's Disease
Dominique Toran-Allerand, M.D.
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, New York
2006 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant
Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the gradual death of neurons in specific areas of the brain. Researchers have wondered if, in women, loss of estrogen after menopause might put these neurons at increased risk. In fact, research shows that estrogen protects neurons in mice with Alzheimer-like pathology and that the steroid hormone spurs neurogenesis, or the birth of new neurons, in the brain.
Dominique Toran-Allerand, M.D., plans to study the role of estrogen in the aging brain. She recently found that a largely ignored form of the steroid, 17alpha-estradiol, is present in the brains of young animals but is not as abundant in older animals, which also have reduced capacity for neurogenesis. Dr. Toran-Allerand plans to investigate if this novel estrogen might spur neuro-genesis and protect against Alzheimer's disease.
She and her colleagues will correlate the level of neurogenesis with the amount of the novel estrogen in mice of various ages. They will run similar experiments in mice that have been genetically modified to develop Alzheimer-like pathology. They will also compare two different forms of estrogen to see which can best stimulate neurogenesis. This work may lead to an entirely new view of the properties of estrogens. Furthermore, because the novel estrogen is devoid of the properties of the "normal" estrogen, the results could lead to novel therapeutics free from the cardiovascular and cancer risks associated with traditional hormone replacement therapy.