Sex hormone precursor inhibits brain inflammation

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered a steroid hormone that inhibits inflammation in the brain.

Glial cells in the cerebellum, magnified 400 times. Image by Thomas Deerinck, National Center for Microscopic Imaging Research, UC San Diego

The findings, to be published in the 13 May issue of the journal Cell, have implications for understanding the exaggerated inflammatory responses that are characteristic features of numerous neurodegenerative diseases.

The discovery that the steroid hormone ADIOL, (5-androsten-3b, 17b -diol), a precursor of androgens and estrogens, modulates inflammation induced by microglia cells could eventually lead to new treatments for patients with neurodegenerative conditions in which inflammation plays a pathogenic role. 

In addition, levels of ADIOL in blood or other body fluids might be useful for predicting risk or responses to drugs that mimic its actions.

The senior author of the paper is Christopher Glass, MD, PhD, professor of the department of cellular and molecular medicine and the department of medicine.

Lead author is Kaoru Saijo, MD, PhD, and an associate project scientist in the Glass lab.