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Pituitary Hormone In Menopause Under Study

Armen Hareyan's picture

Regulating a hormone abundant in women approaching menopause could offer alternatives for hormone replacement therapy, Medical College of Georgia researchers say.

Follicle-stimulating hormone, released by the pituitary gland, is involved in controlling the menstrual cycle and the production of eggs by the ovaries. Researchers want to know if the hormone, which peaks after menopause, may also play a role in an inflammatory process that leads to bone loss and blood vessel damage.

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The possible health effects of such high concentrations have not received much attention, says Dr. Joseph Cannon, associate dean for research and Kellett Chair in the School of Allied Health Sciences.

Most research has instead focused on the dramatic decrease in estrogen production during that time. "The loss of estrogen is often associated with health problems like osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, but it is not the only hormone that changes at menopause," he says.

To identify implications of high levels of FSH, Dr. Cannon and an interdisciplinary research team are studying the effect of FSH on white blood cells with a $340,000 two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health.

"It is thought that during menopause, estrogen is no longer present in sufficient amounts to inhibit the production of proteins produced by white blood cells, known as cytokines," he says. "Cytokines are like the hormones of the immune system