WEDNESDAY, Dec. 20, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Low levels of testosterone hastened the development of Alzheimer's-like disease in mice but testosterone replacement prevented that decline, U.S. researchers report.
The findings, reported in the Dec. 20 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that testosterone-based hormone therapy may prove effective in preventing and treating Alzheimer's disease in aging men, say a team from the University of Southern California.
"We've known that low testosterone is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, but now we know why. The implication for humans is that testosterone therapy might one day be able to block the development of the disease," study senior author Christian Pike, an associate professor at USC's Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, said in a prepared statement.
Pike and his colleagues studied male mice that weren't able to produce testosterone. Some of the mice were given a form of testosterone while the others received no therapy.
The brains of mice with low testosterone had increased levels of the protein beta-amyloid (which is associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease) in the brain and showed signs of behavioral impairment. The mice that received the testosterone had reduced accumulation of beta-amyloid and less behavioral impairment.
"These results are exciting because they tell us that we are on to something that is worth pursuing. The next step is to look at what the long-term effects of testosterone therapy are in aging men," Pike said.
The study was funded by the Alzheimer's Association and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer's disease.