Testosterone Needs Estrogen's Help to Inhibit Depression

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on March 20th, 2016
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Newswise TALLAHASSEE, Fla. In popular culture, the phrase battle of the sexes seems to pit the male hormone (testosterone) against the female (estrogen). Now a Florida State University College of Medicine researcher has documented a way in which the two hormones work together to protect low-testosterone males from the effects of anxiety and depression.

Specifically, the testosterone must first be converted into estrogen. Thats the latest discovery from the lab of biomedical sciences Professor Mohamed Kabbaj. With a six-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, he is investigating the ways in which anxiety affects the sexes differently.

Women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime, according to the NIMH. It also reports that major depressive disorder affects more than 20 million U.S. adults each year.

So far, the link between testosterone conversion and anxiety/depression has been detected only in laboratory animals. But Kabbaj says the results are potentially promising for humans as well.

Maybe in the future, when we are trying to develop an antidepressant that works in low-testosterone males, we can target some of the mechanisms by which testosterone acts, since it has numerous side effects, he said.

Testosterone acts on many receptors and pathways in the brain, so the challenge is to come up with a drug that provides only the effect you want.

A number of treatments are available for depression, but the drugs are not effective in all patients and the side effects can be serious, especially on the heart, said biomedical sciences Professor Pradeep Bhide, director of the College of Medicines Center for Brain Repair. Therefore, there is an urgent need for safer and more efficacious drugs to treat depression. Dr. Kabbajs research is offering new insights into the causes of depression and the role of hormones in this disorder. Such insights are critical for the development of new drugs and diagnostic tests.

Kabbajs latest paper was published in Biological Psychiatry.

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Testosterone Needs Estrogen's Help to Inhibit Depression

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