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Dose and delivery method impact cognitive outcome of Ethinyl Estradiol administration in the surgically menopausal rat

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Ethinyl estradiol, (EE) a synthetic, orally bio-available estrogen, is the most commonly prescribed form of estrogen in oral contraceptives (Shively, C., 1998), and is found in at least 30 different

Ethinyl estradiol, (EE) a synthetic, orally bio-available estrogen, is the most commonly prescribed form of estrogen in oral contraceptives (Shively, C., 1998), and is found in at least 30 different contraceptive formulations currently prescribed to women (Curtis et al., 2005). EE is also used in hormone therapies prescribed to menopausal women, such as FemhrtTM (Simon et al., 2003). Thus, EE is prescribed clinically to women at ages ranging from puberty through reproductive senescence. Here, in two separate studies, the cognitive effects of cyclic or tonic EE administration following ovariectomy (Ovx) were evaluated in young, female rats. Study I assessed the cognitive effects of low and high doses of EE, delivered tonically via a subcutaneous osmotic pump. Study II evaluated the cognitive effects of low, medium, and high doses of EE administered via a daily subcutaneous injection. For these studies, the low and medium doses correspond to the range of doses currently used in clinical formulations, and the high dose corresponds to the range of doses prescribed to a generation of women between 1960 and 1970, when oral contraceptives first became available. For each study, cognition was evaluated with a battery of maze tasks tapping several domains of spatial learning and memory. At the highest dose, EE treatment impaired multiple domains of spatial memory relative to vehicle treatment, regardless of administration method. When given cyclically at the low and medium doses, EE did not impact working memory, but transiently impaired reference memory during the learning phase of testing. Of the doses and regimens tested here, only EE at the highest dose impaired several domains of memory; this was seen for both cyclic and tonic regimens. Cyclic and tonic delivery of low EE, a dose that corresponds to doses used in the clinic today, resulted in transient and null impairments, respectively, on cognition.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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Diffuse Brain Injury Incites Sexual Differences and Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis Disruptions

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Of the 2.87 million traumatic brain injuries (TBI) sustained yearly in the United States, 75% are diffuse injuries. A single TBI can have acute and chronic influences on the neuroendocrine

Of the 2.87 million traumatic brain injuries (TBI) sustained yearly in the United States, 75% are diffuse injuries. A single TBI can have acute and chronic influences on the neuroendocrine system leading to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) dysregulation and increased affective disorders. Preliminary data indicate TBI causes neuroinflammation in the hippocampus, likely due to axonal damage, and in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN), where no axonal damage is apparent. Mechanisms regulating neuroinflammation in the PVN are unknown. Furthermore, chronic stress causes HPA dysregulation and glucocorticoid receptor (GR)-mediated neuroinflammation in the PVN. The goal of this project was to evaluate neuroinflammation in the HPA axis and determine if GR levels change at 7 days post-injury (DPI).

Adult male and female Sprague Dawley rats were subjected to midline fluid percussion injury. At 7 DPI, half of each brain was post-fixed for immunohistochemistry (IBA-1) and half biopsied for gene/protein analysis. IBA-1 staining was analyzed for microglia activation via skeleton analysis in the hypothalamus and hippocampus. Extracted RNA and protein were used to quantify mRNA expression and protein levels for GRs. Data indicate increased microglia cell number and decreased endpoints/cell and process length in the PVN of males, but not females. In the dentate gyrus, both males and females have an increased microglia cell number after TBI, but there is also an interaction between sex and injury in microglia presentation, where males exhibit a more robust effect than females. Both sexes have significant decreases of endpoints/cell and process length. In both regions, GR protein levels decreased for injured males, but in the hippocampus, GR levels increased for injured females. Data indicate that diffuse TBI causes alterations in microglia morphology and GR levels in the hypothalamus and hippocampus at 7 DPI, providing a potential mechanism for HPA axis dysregulation at a sub-acute time point.

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Date Created
  • 2019

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On the cognitive impact of endogenous and exogenous hormone exposures across the lifespan

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Women are exposed to numerous endogenous and exogenous hormones across the lifespan. In the last several decades, the prescription of novel hormonal contraceptives and hormone therapies (HTs) have resulted in

Women are exposed to numerous endogenous and exogenous hormones across the lifespan. In the last several decades, the prescription of novel hormonal contraceptives and hormone therapies (HTs) have resulted in aging women that have a unique hormone exposure history; little is known about the impact of these hormone exposures on short- and long- term brain health. The goal of my dissertation was to understand how lifetime hormone exposures shape the female cognitive phenotype using several innovative approaches, including a new human spatial working memory task, the human radial arm maze (HRAM), and several rodent menopause models with variants of clinically used hormone treatments. Using the HRAM (chapter 2) and established human neuropsychological tests, I determined males outperformed females with high endogenous or exogenous estrogen levels on visuospatial tasks and the spatial working memory HRAM (chapter 3). Evaluating the synthetic estrogen in contraceptives, ethinyl estradiol (EE), I found a high EE dose impaired spatial working memory in ovariectomized (Ovx) rats, medium and high EE doses reduced choline-acetyltransferace-immunoreactive neuron population estimates in the basal forebrain following Ovx (chapter 4), and low EE impaired spatial cognition in ovary-intact rats (chapter 5). Assessing the impact of several clinically-used HTs, I identified a window of opportunity around ovarian follicular depletion outside of which the HT conjugated equine estrogens (CEE) was detrimental to spatial memory (chapter 6), as well as therapeutic potentials for synthetic contraceptive hormones (chapter 9) and bioidentical estradiol (chapter 7) during and after the transition to menopause. Chapter 6 and 7 findings, that estradiol and Ovx benefitted cognition after the menopause transition, but CEE did not, are perhaps due to the negative impact of ovarian-produced, androstenedione-derived estrone; indeed, blocking androstenedione’s conversion to estrone prevented its cognitive impairments (chapter 8). Finally, I determined that EE combined with the popular progestin levonorgestrel benefited spatial memory during the transition to menopause, a profile not seen with estradiol, levonorgestrel, or EE alone (chapter 9). This work identifies several cognitively safe, and enhancing, hormonal treatment options at different time points throughout female aging, revealing promising avenues toward optimizing female health.

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  • 2015