It has been known for decades that females are more susceptible than men to inflammatory autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis. In addition, female patients with these diseases experience clinical improvements during pregnancy with a temporary "rebound" exacerbation postpartum. These clinical observations indicate an effect of sex hormones on disease and suggest the potential use of the male hormone testosterone and the pregnancy hormone estriol, respectively, for the treatment of MS. A growing number of studies using the MS animal model experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) support a therapeutic effect of these hormones. Both testosterone and estriol have been found to induce anti-inflammatory as well as neuroprotective effects. Findings from two recent pilot studies of transdermal testosterone in male MS patients and oral estriol in female MS patients are encouraging. In this paper, we review the preclinical and clinical evidence for sex hormone treatments in MS and discuss potential mechanisms of action.
Gold SM, Voskuhl RR. Estrogen and testosterone therapies in multiple sclerosis. Prog Brain Res 2009 August Department of Neurology, Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA.