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An Evaluation of the Levonorgestrel-Releasing Intrauterine Device and its Impact on Cognitive Function in a Rat Model

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The aim of this study was to determine whether IUD administration, with and without the presence of Levo, and with and without the presence of the ovaries, impacts cognition in a rat model. Rats received either Sham or Ovariectomy (Ovx)

The aim of this study was to determine whether IUD administration, with and without the presence of Levo, and with and without the presence of the ovaries, impacts cognition in a rat model. Rats received either Sham or Ovariectomy (Ovx) surgery (removal of the ovaries), plus either no IUD, a Blank IUD (without Levo), or a Levo-releasing IUD (Levo IUD), enabling us to evaluate the effects of Ovx and the effects of IUD administration on cognition. Two weeks after surgery, all treatment groups were tested on the water radial arm maze, Morris water maze, and visible platform task to evaluate cognition. At sacrifice, upon investigation of the uteri, it was determined that some of the IUDs were no longer present in animals from these groups: Sham\u2014Blank IUD, Ovx\u2014Blank IUD, and Sham\u2014Levo IUD. Results from the remaining three groups showed that compared to Sham animals with no IUDs, Ovx animals with no IUDs had marginally impaired working memory performance, and that Ovx animals with Levo IUDs as compared to Ovx animals with no IUDs had marginally enhanced memory performance, not specific to a particular memory type. Results also showed that Ovx animals with Levo IUDs had qualitatively more cells in their vaginal smears and increased uterine horn weight compared to Ovx animals with no IUDs, suggesting local stimulation of the Levo IUDs to the uterine horns. Overall, these results provide alternative evidence to the hypothesis that the Levo IUD administers Levo in solely a localized manner, and suggests that the possibility for the Levo IUD to affect reproductive cyclicity in ovary-intact animals is not rejected. The potential for the Levo IUD to exert effects on cognition suggests that either the hormone does in fact systemically circulate, or that the Levo IUD administration affects cognition by altering an as yet undetermined hormonal or other feedback between the uterus and the brain.

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2018-12

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Deficits in Spatial Working Memory Depend on Age in a Novel Rat Model of Alzheimer's Disease

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There are currently no disease-modifying treatments to halt or attenuate the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Transgenic rodent models have provided researchers the ability to recapitulate particular pathological and symptomological events in disease progression. Complete reproduction of all features of

There are currently no disease-modifying treatments to halt or attenuate the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Transgenic rodent models have provided researchers the ability to recapitulate particular pathological and symptomological events in disease progression. Complete reproduction of all features of AD in a rodent model has not been achieved, potentially lending to the inconclusive treatment results at the clinical level. Recently, the TgF344-AD transgenic rat model has started to be evaluated; however, it has not been well characterized in terms of its cognition, which is fundamental to understanding the trajectory of aging relative to pathology and learning and memory changes. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to identify cognitive outcomes at 6, 9, and 12 months of age in the TgF344-AD rat model. Sixty female transgenic (Tg) and wildtype (WT) rats were tested on the water radial arm maze, Morris water maze, and visible platform task to evaluate cognition. Results from the asymptotic phase of the water radial arm maze showed that the 6 mo-Tg animals had marginally impaired working memory compared to 6 mo-WT rats, and 12 mo-Tg rats had significantly impaired working memory compared to 12 mo-WT rats. The 9 mo-Tg animals did not demonstrate a significant difference in working memory errors compared to the 9 mo-WT animals. This pattern of impairment, wherein Tg animals made more working memory errors compared to WT animals at the 6 and 12 month time points, but not at the 9 month time point, may be indicative of an inflammatory response that proves helpful at incipient stages of disease progression but eventually leads to further cognitive impairment. These results provide insight into the potential earliest time point that prodromal cognitive symptoms of AD exist, and how they progress with aging. Brain tissue was collected at sacrifice for future analyses of pathology, which will be used to glean insight into the temporal progression of pathological and cognitive outcomes.

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2020-05

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Impact of In-Utero Dexamethasone on Autonomic Regulation in Adulthood

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Premature babies are at risk of death from immature lung development. For this reason, pregnant mothers at risk for preterm delivery are administered dexamethasone (DEX), a synthetic glucocorticoid that promotes fetal lung development. However, exposure to DEX in utero is

Premature babies are at risk of death from immature lung development. For this reason, pregnant mothers at risk for preterm delivery are administered dexamethasone (DEX), a synthetic glucocorticoid that promotes fetal lung development. However, exposure to DEX in utero is associated with low birth weight and cardiovascular development pathologies. Moreover, our lab found that DEX administration in-utero leads to a sex-specific increase in stress-induced tachycardia in female, but not male offspring. This project seeks to expand on this preliminary finding of the heart by examining local effectors of activity from the sympathetic system (tyrosine hydroxylase and catechol-o-methyltransferase). Tyrosine hydroxylase was measured as it catalyzes the rate limiting step of norepinephrine synthesis while catechol-O- methyltransferase was studied as it catalyzes the degradation of norepinephrine. Acetylcholinesterase was used to measure parasympathetic activity as it catalyzes the degradation of the primary neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system, acetylcholine. Analyses of sympathetic as well as parasympathetic activity were done to determine influences of in-utero DEX exposure on autonomic regulation in adulthood. Pregnant rats were administered DEX (0.4 mg/kg, i.p.) or vehicle (20% w/v 2-hydroxypropyl ß- cyclodextran) at gestation days 18-21, with euthanasia of offspring occurring at around the time the offspring reached 13-15 weeks of age. Left ventricles and right atria were pulverized, processed and subjected to western blot analysis to determine expression of proteins of interest. Males exposed to DEX in-utero saw a decrease in tyrosine hydroxylase expression in left ventricle and right atrium when compared to vehicle control, a difference not seen with females. In addition, catechol-o-methyltransferase expression was increased in right atria from male, but not female rats. Acetylcholinesterase expression was reduced in the right atria of female, but not male rats. The present findings suggest reduced norepinephrine signaling in the heart of male, but not female DEX-exposed offspring. Given that we have previously found that female, but not male rats exhibit exaggerated stress-induced tachycardia, our current findings suggest that males possess a sex-specific compensatory mechanism allowing the heart to resist increased sympathetic signaling from the brain, one that females do not possess. The underlying mechanics of this proposed mechanism are unclear, and further investigation is needed in this subject to determine the significance of the findings from our study.

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2021-05

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An Evaluation of the Cognitive Effects of Clinically Used Combination Hormone Therapy

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Estradiol (E2) and Levonorgestrel (Levo) are two hormones commonly used in hormone therapy (HT) to decrease symptoms associated with menopause. Both of these hormones have been shown to have beneficial effects on cognition when given alone in a rodent model

Estradiol (E2) and Levonorgestrel (Levo) are two hormones commonly used in hormone therapy (HT) to decrease symptoms associated with menopause. Both of these hormones have been shown to have beneficial effects on cognition when given alone in a rodent model of menopause. However, it is unknown whether these hormones, when taken in combination, are beneficial or harmful to cognition. This is a critically important question given that these hormones are most often given in combination versus separately. This thesis is composed of two studies examining the cognitive effects of E2 and Levo using a rat model of surgical menopause. Study 1 assessed how the dose of E2 treatment in rats impacted cognitive performance, and found that low dose E2 enhanced working memory performance. Next, based on the results from Study 1, Study 2 used low dose E2 in combination with different doses of Levo to examine the cognitive effects of several E2 to Levo ratio combinations. The results from Study 2 demonstrated that the combination of low dose E2 with a high dose of Levo at a 1:2 ratio impaired cognition, and that the ratio currently used in HT, 3:1, may also negatively impact cognition. Indeed, there was a dose response effect indicating that working and reference memory performance was incrementally impaired as Levo dose increased. The findings in this thesis suggest that the E2 plus Levo combination is likely not neutral for cognitive function, and prompts further evaluation in menopausal women, as well as drug discovery research to optimize HT using highly controlled preclinical models.

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Date Created
2016-12

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Progestogens impact cognition during the transition to menopause in the rat: dissociation of progestogen- and memory- type

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Progestogens, such as progesterone (P4), medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), and micronized progesterone (mP4), are given to ovary-intact women during the transition to menopause to attenuate heavy uterine bleeding and other symptoms. Both progesterone and MPA administration have been shown to impair

Progestogens, such as progesterone (P4), medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), and micronized progesterone (mP4), are given to ovary-intact women during the transition to menopause to attenuate heavy uterine bleeding and other symptoms. Both progesterone and MPA administration have been shown to impair cognition in ovariectomized (Ovx) rats compared to vehicle-treated controls. mP4, however, has yet to be investigated for cognitive effects in a preclinical setting. Further, progestogens affect the GABA (-aminobutyric acid) ergic system, specifically glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) the rate limiting enzyme necessary for synthesizing GABA. The goal of this experiment was to investigate the cognitive impact of P4, MPA, and mP4, in an ovary-intact transitional menopause model using 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide (VCD) and assess whether these potential changes were related to the GABAergic system. One group of rats received vehicle injections, and the remainder of the groups received VCD to induce follicular depletion, modeling transitional menopause in women. Vehicle or hormone administration began during perimenopause to model the time period when women often take progestogens alone. Rats then underwent testing to assess spatial working and reference memory in the water radial-arm maze (WRAM) and spatial reference memory in the Morris water maze (MWM). Results indicate that P4 and MPA improved learning for working memory measure, but only MPA impaired memory retention in the WRAM. For the WRAM reference memory measure, VCD only treated rats showed impaired learning and memory retention compared to vehicle controls; progestogens did not impact this impairment. Although GAD expression did not differ between treatment groups, in general, there was a relationship between GAD expression and WRAM performance such that rats that tended to have higher GAD levels also tended to make more WRAM working memory errors. Thus, while P4 and MPA have been previously shown to impair cognition in an Ovx model, giving these hormones early in an ovary-intact perimenopause model elicits divergent effects, such that these progestogens can improve cognition. Additionally, these findings suggest that the cognitive changes seen herein are related to the interaction between progestogens and the GABAergic system. Further investigation into progestogens is warranted to fully understand their impact on cognition given the importance of utilizing progestogens in the clinic.

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2019