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Can testosterone improve cognition in older women?

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February 17, 2011

The pilot study on the effect of restoring testosterone levels in older women used a novel...

The pilot study on the effect of restoring testosterone levels in older women used a novel method of testosterone application - the MDTS Applicator (Image: Acrux)

For women, the onset of midlife brings with it an array of distressing symptoms related to changes in hormone levels. The risk of dementia increases with age – particularly after the mid-60s – memory loss is a frequent complaint and quality of life is compromised as a result. Using a novel "patchless" patch method of drug delivery, researchers at the Women’s Health Research Program Monash University, Australia, have been investigating whether restoring testosterone levels in older women to those of younger women will improve brain function and ultimately protect against dementia.

During the reproductive years levels of testosterone in the human female brain are several-fold greater than those of estrogen however with increasing age, testosterone levels drop. Within the brain testosterone exhibits neuroprotective effects and potentially may exert favorable effects on blood vessels supplying the brain, although this is yet to be established. Some studies have reported that chemical or surgical testosterone deprivation in men is associated with impaired memory.

In a six month, open label pilot study the researchers found that a small dose of testosterone administered each day by a transdermal spray was associated with improved visual and verbal learning and memory in a group of nine postmenopausal women. Study leader Dr Sonia Davison says that the preliminary results look promising, but the randomized trial currently underway will determine if testosterone is a viable option to improve cognition and counter dementia.

An interesting fact about the pilot study was the novel method of testosterone application. A spray pump called an MDTS Applicator forms an invisible or "patchless" patch under the epidermis allowing for once a day application which typically delivers consistent amounts through the skin to the blood stream. This method of drug delivery is convenient as the patch is waterproof and reduces unwanted side effects associated with oral dosing. The applicator can be used to deliver a variety of drugs safely and accurately and is currently approved by the FDA in the USA for estrogen therapy.

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