Testosterone – the hormone responsible for a man's sexual characteristics – may help him recover from a stroke, according to preliminary animal research at Saint Louis University.
Researchers will present their findings at the annual meeting of the American Neurological Association in October.
“It looks like testosterone speeds up the recovery from a stroke,” said Yi Pan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and principal investigator on the study. “While the results are encouraging, this is still very preliminary and we need to do more research.”
The scientists compared two groups of castrated rats that had suffered strokes. Half received testosterone and half a placebo. The rats that received testosterone showed significant improvement in neurological deficits while those in the control group did not.
Based on the promising findings, plans are on the drawing board to test whether testosterone helps people recover from strokes, said Aninda B. Acharya, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and a researcher on the project.
“We are trying to find newer, better techniques including pharmacological techniques to improve the outcomes of patients who have had strokes,” Dr. Acharya says. “Many of the techniques for physical rehabilitation were designed for people returning from combat without a limb. They may not be applicable for stroke patients.”
He acknowledges that testosterone replacement therapy usually is given to men who have low testosterone, whose symptoms include low libido, poor muscle strength, depression and cognitive problems.
“We’re studying giving testosterone for a different indication than people are used to. But the patients who have low testosterone have the same symptoms we treat in stroke patients. If you look at what happens to patients with strokes, their strength is affected. Their thinking is affected. They’re depressed. Their sex drive is decreased. There are all sorts of similarities. I don’t think they’re superficial similarities.”
Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first M.D. degree west of the Mississippi River. Saint Louis University School of Medicine is a pioneer in geriatric medicine, organ transplantation, chronic disease prevention, cardiovascular disease, neurosciences and vaccine research, among others. The School of Medicine trains physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health services on a local, national and international level.