Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a major health problem worldwide. As a result, researchers are investigating the mechanisms, symptoms, and treatment strategies for SCI in order to improve patient outcomes after the initial injury. Because no effective drug treatments for SCI currently exist, clinicians rely largely on therapeutic treatment programs to promote recovery.
Recently, a group of researchers in Nebraska conducted a literature review to determine the effectiveness of hormones as a treatment for SCI. They focused on progesterone, estrogen, and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), all of which are hormones that occur naturally in the human body. They found that each of these hormones has a unique function that may improve outcomes after SCI:
- Estrogen has protective and anti-inflammatory qualities that may help people with SCI regain physical function more quickly. Women produce more estrogen than men, which may explain in part why women exhibit somewhat faster recovery from SCI.
- Progesterone prevents neuron death by helping cells maintain their appropriate energy cycles, which are often disrupted after SCI-related damage.
- HCG may reduce the size of brain lesions after injury. This hormone plays a role in cell regeneration, which may improve motor function and minimize neuron damage after SCI.
Clinicians rely on therapeutic programs to treat SCI patients and reduce risk of injury-related deficits, paralysis, or death. Existing studies confirm that hormonal therapy, which relies on chemicals produced naturally in the human body, is a promising form of treatment for people with SCI. Further research is necessary to determine the exact potential of hormonal therapy for reducing or reversing the physical damage caused by SCI.
Ludwig PE, Patil AA, Chamczuk AJ, et al. Hormonal therapy in traumatic spinal cord injury. American Journal of Translational Research. (September 2017).