Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Jun 2007

DHEA, Vitamin K, Melatonin, and Alzheimer's/Heart Disease

Future perspectives of selective estrogen receptor modulators used alone and in combination with DHEA.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed and the second cause of cancer death in women, thus making breast cancer a most feared disease. Since breast cancer metastasizes early and it is unlikely that improvements in the treatment of metastatic disease could permit a cure in most cases in the foreseeable future, it is clear that prevention is essential in order practically to eliminate deaths from breast cancer. Tamoxifen is the only selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) currently registered for use in breast cancer prevention; the tamoxifen versus raloxifene study should indicate the efficacy of this compound compared with raloxifene. The recent benefits of aromatase inhibitors over tamoxifen indicate the advantages of a blockade of estrogens more complete than the one achieved with tamoxifen, a SERM having some estrogenic activity in the mammary gland and an even higher estrogenic action in the uterus. However, it is unlikely that the general estrogen ablation achieved with aromatase inhibitors will be acceptable for the long-term use required for prevention. It is thus important to develop SERMs with highly potent and pure antagonistic activity in the mammary gland and uterus while possessing estrogen-like activity in tissues of particular importance for women’s health, namely the bones and the cardiovascular system. However, it is expected that a SERM alone will not meet all the requirements of women’s health at the postmenopause when ovarian estrogen secretion has ceased and peripheral formation of androgens and estrogens from DHEA by intracrine mechanisms is decreased by 60% or more. One possibility is to combine a SERM with DHEA, a precursor of sex steroids that permits, somewhat like SERMs, tissue-specific formation of androgens and/or estrogens according to the level of expression of the steroidogenic and steroid-inactivating enzymes. DHEA could thus compensate for the important loss of androgens that accompanies aging and could also permit sex steroid formation and action in the brain while breast cancer prevention would be achieved by the SERM.

Endocr Relat Cancer. 2006 Jun;13(2):335-55

A guide to issues in microarray analysis: application to endometrial biology.

Within the last decade, the development of DNA microarray technology has enabled the simultaneous measurement of thousands of gene transcripts in a biological sample. Conducting a microarray study is a multi-step process; starting with a well-defined biological question, moving through experimental design, target RNA preparation, microarray hybridisation, image acquisition and data analysis--finishing with a biological interpretation requiring further study. Advances continue to be made in microarray quality and methods of statistical analysis, improving the reliability and therefore appeal of microarray analysis for a wide range of biological questions. The purpose of this review is to provide both an introduction to microarray methodology, as well as a practical guide to the use of microarrays for gene expression analysis, using endometrial biology as an example of the applications of this technology. While recommendations are based on previous experience in our laboratory, this review also summarises the methods currently considered to be best practice in the field.

Reproduction. 2005 Jul;130(1):1-13

Validation of array-based gene expression profiles by real-time (kinetic) RT-PCR.

We evaluated real-time (kinetic) reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to validate differentially expressed genes identified by DNA arrays. Gene expression of two keratinocyte subclones differing in the physical state of human papillomavirus (episomal or integrated) was used as a model system. High-density filter arrays identified 444 of 588 genes as either negative or expressed with less than twofold difference, and the other 144 genes as expressed uniquely or with more than twofold difference between the two subclones. Real-time RT-PCR used LightCycler-based SYBR Green I dye detection and melting curve analysis to validate the relative change in gene expression. Real-time RT-PCR confirmed the change in expression of 17 of 24 (71%) genes identified by high-density filter arrays. Genes with strong hybridization signals and at least twofold difference were likely to be validated by real-time RT-PCR. This data suggests that (i) both hybridization intensity and the level of differential expression determine the likelihood of validating high-density filter array results and (ii) genes identified by DNA arrays with a two- to fourfold difference in expression cannot be eliminated as false nor be accepted as true without validation. Real-time RT-PCR based on LightCycler technology is well-suited to validate DNA array results because it is quantitative, rapid, and requires 1000-fold less RNA than conventional assays.

J Mol Diagn. 2001 Feb;3(1):26-31

DHT and testosterone, but not DHEA or E2, differentially modulate IGF-I, IGFBP-2, and IGFBP-3 in human prostatic stromal cells.

Prostate cancer is one of the four most common cancers in the United States, affecting one of six men. Increased serum levels of androgens and IGF-I are associated with an augmented risk of prostate cancer. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and testosterone (T) stimulate prostate cancer cell growth, development, and function, whereas the effects of DHT and T in prostate stromal cells, and of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in prostate cancer or stromal cells, are uncertain. We investigated the actions of DHT, T, DHEA, and estradiol (E2) on insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, IGF-II, IGF-I receptor (R), IGF-binding protein (IGFBP)-2, IGFBP-3, and IGFBP-5 in primary cultures of human prostatic stromal cells by assessing cell proliferation, mRNA expression, and protein secretion by MTT growth assay, quantitative real-time PCR, and ELISA, respectively. DHT and T each increased IGF-I (7-fold) and decreased IGFBP-3 (2-fold) mRNA expression and protein secretion in a dose- and time-dependent manner and increased IGFBP-2 (2-fold) mRNA in a dose- and time-dependent manner. DHEA and E2 did not significantly alter these measures. Flutamide abolished the DHT-modulated increases in IGF-I and IGFBP-2, suggesting that the influences of DHT and T on these measures were androgen receptor mediated. None of the four steroids significantly affected IGF-IR, IGF-II, or IGFBP-5 mRNA levels or stromal cell proliferation. The effects of DHT on IGF-I, IGFBP-2, and IGFBP-3 were more pronounced in stromal cultures that did not express desmin. These data suggest that DHT and T promote prostate growth partly via modulation of the stromal cell IGF axis, with potential paracrine effects on prostate epithelial cells.

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006 May;290(5):E952-60

Comparative effects of DHEA vs. testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and estradiol on proliferation and gene expression in human LNCaP prostate cancer cells.

Serum levels of the adrenal androgen dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) peak in men and women in the third decade of life and decrease progressively with age. Increasing numbers of middle-aged and older individuals consume over-the-counter preparations of DHEA, hoping it will retard aging by increasing muscle and bone mass and strength, decreasing fat, and improving immunologic and neurobehavioral functions. Because DHEA can serve as a precursor to more potent androgens and estrogens, like testosterone (T), dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and 17beta-estradiol (E2), supplemental DHEA use may pose a cancer risk in patients with nascent or occult prostate cancer. The steroid-responsive human LNCaP prostate cancer cells, containing a functional but mutated androgen receptor (AR), were used to compare effects of DHEA with those of T, DHT, and E2 on cell proliferation and protein and/or gene expression of AR, prostate-specific antigen (PSA), IGF-I, IGF-I receptor (IGF-IR), IGF-II, IGF-binding proteins-2, -3, and -5, (IGFBPs-2, -3, and -5), and estrogen receptor-beta (ERbeta). Cell proliferation assays revealed significant stimulation by all four steroids. DHEA- and E2-induced responses were similar but delayed and reduced compared with that of T and DHT. All four hormones increased gene and/or protein expression of PSA, IGF-IR, IGF-I, and IGFBP-2 and decreased that of AR, ERbeta, IGF-II, and IGFBP-3. There were no significant effects of hormone treatment on IGFBP-5 mRNA. DHEA and E2 responses were similar, and distinct from those of DHT and T, in time- and dose-dependent studies. Further studies of the mechanisms of DHEA effects on prostate cancer epithelial cells of varying AR status, as well as on prostate stromal cells, will be required to discern the implications of DHEA supplementation on prostatic health.

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Mar;288(3):E573-84

High bioavailability of dehydroepiandrosterone administered percutaneously in the rat.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) administered percutaneously by twice daily application for 7 days to the dorsal skin of the rat stimulates an increase in ventral prostate weight with approximately one third the potency of the compound given by subcutaneous injection. The doses required to achieve a 50% reversal of the inhibitory effect of orchiectomy are approximately 3 and 1 mg respectively. By the oral route, on the other hand. DHEA has only 10-15% of the activity of the compound given percutaneously. Taking the bioavailability obtained by the subcutaneous route as 100%, it is estimated that the potencies of DHEA by the percutaneous and oral routes are approximately 33 and 3% respectively. Similar ratios of activity were obtained when dorsal prostate and seminal vesicle weight were used as parameters of androgenic activity. When examined on an estrogen-sensitive parameter, namely uterine weight in ovariectomized rats, the stimulatory effect of DHEA was much less potent than its androgenic activity measured in the male animal, a 50% reversal of the inhibitory effect of ovariectomy on uterine weight being observed at the 3 and 30 mg doses of DHEA administered by the subcutaneous and percutaneous routes respectively. When measured on uterine weight, percutaneous DHEA thus shows a 10% potency compared with the subcutaneous route. The sulfate of DHEA (DHEA-S), on the other hand, was approximately 50% as potent as DHEA at increasing ventral prostate weight after subcutaneous or percutaneous administration. When the effect was measured on dorsal prostate and seminal vesicle weight, percutaneous DHEA-S had 10-25% of the activity of DHEA. DHEA decreased serum LH levels in ovariectomized animals, an effect which was completely reversed by treatment with the antiandrogen flutamide. On the other hand, flutamide had no significant effect on the increase in uterine weight caused by DHEA, thus suggesting a predominant estrogenic effect of DHEA at the level of the uterus and an estrogenic effect on the feedback control of LH secretion. The present data show a relatively high bioavailability of percutaneous DHEA as measured by its androgenic and/or estrogenic biological activity in well-characterized peripheral target intracrime tissues in the rat.

J Endocrinol. 1996 Sep;150 Suppl:S107-18

Future perspectives of selective estrogen receptor modulators used alone and in combination with DHEA.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed and the second cause of cancer death in women, thus making breast cancer a most feared disease. Since breast cancer metastasizes early and it is unlikely that improvements in the treatment of metastatic disease could permit a cure in most cases in the foreseeable future, it is clear that prevention is essential in order practically to eliminate deaths from breast cancer. Tamoxifen is the only selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) currently registered for use in breast cancer prevention; the tamoxifen versus raloxifene study should indicate the efficacy of this compound compared with raloxifene. The recent benefits of aromatase inhibitors over tamoxifen indicate the advantages of a blockade of estrogens more complete than the one achieved with tamoxifen, a SERM having some estrogenic activity in the mammary gland and an even higher estrogenic action in the uterus. However, it is unlikely that the general estrogen ablation achieved with aromatase inhibitors will be acceptable for the long-term use required for prevention. It is thus important to develop SERMs with highly potent and pure antagonistic activity in the mammary gland and uterus while possessing estrogen-like activity in tissues of particular importance for women’s health, namely the bones and the cardiovascular system. However, it is expected that a SERM alone will not meet all the requirements of women’s health at the postmenopause when ovarian estrogen secretion has ceased and peripheral formation of androgens and estrogens from DHEA by intracrine mechanisms is decreased by 60% or more. One possibility is to combine a SERM with DHEA, a precursor of sex steroids that permits, somewhat like SERMs, tissue-specific formation of androgens and/or estrogens according to the level of expression of the steroidogenic and steroid-inactivating enzymes. DHEA could thus compensate for the important loss of androgens that accompanies aging and could also permit sex steroid formation and action in the brain while breast cancer prevention would be achieved by the SERM.

Endocr Relat Cancer. 2006 Jun;13(2):335-55

A guide to issues in microarray analysis: application to endometrial biology.

Within the last decade, the development of DNA microarray technology has enabled the simultaneous measurement of thousands of gene transcripts in a biological sample. Conducting a microarray study is a multi-step process; starting with a well-defined biological question, moving through experimental design, target RNA preparation, microarray hybridisation, image acquisition and data analysis--finishing with a biological interpretation requiring further study. Advances continue to be made in microarray quality and methods of statistical analysis, improving the reliability and therefore appeal of microarray analysis for a wide range of biological questions. The purpose of this review is to provide both an introduction to microarray methodology, as well as a practical guide to the use of microarrays for gene expression analysis, using endometrial biology as an example of the applications of this technology. While recommendations are based on previous experience in our laboratory, this review also summarises the methods currently considered to be best practice in the field.

Reproduction. 2005 Jul;130(1):1-13

Validation of array-based gene expression profiles by real-time (kinetic) RT-PCR.

We evaluated real-time (kinetic) reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to validate differentially expressed genes identified by DNA arrays. Gene expression of two keratinocyte subclones differing in the physical state of human papillomavirus (episomal or integrated) was used as a model system. High-density filter arrays identified 444 of 588 genes as either negative or expressed with less than twofold difference, and the other 144 genes as expressed uniquely or with more than twofold difference between the two subclones. Real-time RT-PCR used LightCycler-based SYBR Green I dye detection and melting curve analysis to validate the relative change in gene expression. Real-time RT-PCR confirmed the change in expression of 17 of 24 (71%) genes identified by high-density filter arrays. Genes with strong hybridization signals and at least twofold difference were likely to be validated by real-time RT-PCR. This data suggests that (i) both hybridization intensity and the level of differential expression determine the likelihood of validating high-density filter array results and (ii) genes identified by DNA arrays with a two- to fourfold difference in expression cannot be eliminated as false nor be accepted as true without validation. Real-time RT-PCR based on LightCycler technology is well-suited to validate DNA array results because it is quantitative, rapid, and requires 1000-fold less RNA than conventional assays.

J Mol Diagn. 2001 Feb;3(1):26-31

DHT and testosterone, but not DHEA or E2, differentially modulate IGF-I, IGFBP-2, and IGFBP-3 in human prostatic stromal cells.

Prostate cancer is one of the four most common cancers in the United States, affecting one of six men. Increased serum levels of androgens and IGF-I are associated with an augmented risk of prostate cancer. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and testosterone (T) stimulate prostate cancer cell growth, development, and function, whereas the effects of DHT and T in prostate stromal cells, and of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in prostate cancer or stromal cells, are uncertain. We investigated the actions of DHT, T, DHEA, and estradiol (E2) on insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, IGF-II, IGF-I receptor (R), IGF-binding protein (IGFBP)-2, IGFBP-3, and IGFBP-5 in primary cultures of human prostatic stromal cells by assessing cell proliferation, mRNA expression, and protein secretion by MTT growth assay, quantitative real-time PCR, and ELISA, respectively. DHT and T each increased IGF-I (7-fold) and decreased IGFBP-3 (2-fold) mRNA expression and protein secretion in a dose- and time-dependent manner and increased IGFBP-2 (2-fold) mRNA in a dose- and time-dependent manner. DHEA and E2 did not significantly alter these measures. Flutamide abolished the DHT-modulated increases in IGF-I and IGFBP-2, suggesting that the influences of DHT and T on these measures were androgen receptor mediated. None of the four steroids significantly affected IGF-IR, IGF-II, or IGFBP-5 mRNA levels or stromal cell proliferation. The effects of DHT on IGF-I, IGFBP-2, and IGFBP-3 were more pronounced in stromal cultures that did not express desmin. These data suggest that DHT and T promote prostate growth partly via modulation of the stromal cell IGF axis, with potential paracrine effects on prostate epithelial cells.

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006 May;290(5):E952-60

Comparative effects of DHEA vs. testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and estradiol on proliferation and gene expression in human LNCaP prostate cancer cells.

Serum levels of the adrenal androgen dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) peak in men and women in the third decade of life and decrease progressively with age. Increasing numbers of middle-aged and older individuals consume over-the-counter preparations of DHEA, hoping it will retard aging by increasing muscle and bone mass and strength, decreasing fat, and improving immunologic and neurobehavioral functions. Because DHEA can serve as a precursor to more potent androgens and estrogens, like testosterone (T), dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and 17beta-estradiol (E2), supplemental DHEA use may pose a cancer risk in patients with nascent or occult prostate cancer. The steroid-responsive human LNCaP prostate cancer cells, containing a functional but mutated androgen receptor (AR), were used to compare effects of DHEA with those of T, DHT, and E2 on cell proliferation and protein and/or gene expression of AR, prostate-specific antigen (PSA), IGF-I, IGF-I receptor (IGF-IR), IGF-II, IGF-binding proteins-2, -3, and -5, (IGFBPs-2, -3, and -5), and estrogen receptor-beta (ERbeta). Cell proliferation assays revealed significant stimulation by all four steroids. DHEA- and E2-induced responses were similar but delayed and reduced compared with that of T and DHT. All four hormones increased gene and/or protein expression of PSA, IGF-IR, IGF-I, and IGFBP-2 and decreased that of AR, ERbeta, IGF-II, and IGFBP-3. There were no significant effects of hormone treatment on IGFBP-5 mRNA. DHEA and E2 responses were similar, and distinct from those of DHT and T, in time- and dose-dependent studies. Further studies of the mechanisms of DHEA effects on prostate cancer epithelial cells of varying AR status, as well as on prostate stromal cells, will be required to discern the implications of DHEA supplementation on prostatic health.

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Mar;288(3):E573-84

High bioavailability of dehydroepiandrosterone administered percutaneously in the rat.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) administered percutaneously by twice daily application for 7 days to the dorsal skin of the rat stimulates an increase in ventral prostate weight with approximately one third the potency of the compound given by subcutaneous injection. The doses required to achieve a 50% reversal of the inhibitory effect of orchiectomy are approximately 3 and 1 mg respectively. By the oral route, on the other hand. DHEA has only 10-15% of the activity of the compound given percutaneously. Taking the bioavailability obtained by the subcutaneous route as 100%, it is estimated that the potencies of DHEA by the percutaneous and oral routes are approximately 33 and 3% respectively. Similar ratios of activity were obtained when dorsal prostate and seminal vesicle weight were used as parameters of androgenic activity. When examined on an estrogen-sensitive parameter, namely uterine weight in ovariectomized rats, the stimulatory effect of DHEA was much less potent than its androgenic activity measured in the male animal, a 50% reversal of the inhibitory effect of ovariectomy on uterine weight being observed at the 3 and 30 mg doses of DHEA administered by the subcutaneous and percutaneous routes respectively. When measured on uterine weight, percutaneous DHEA thus shows a 10% potency compared with the subcutaneous route. The sulfate of DHEA (DHEA-S), on the other hand, was approximately 50% as potent as DHEA at increasing ventral prostate weight after subcutaneous or percutaneous administration. When the effect was measured on dorsal prostate and seminal vesicle weight, percutaneous DHEA-S had 10-25% of the activity of DHEA. DHEA decreased serum LH levels in ovariectomized animals, an effect which was completely reversed by treatment with the antiandrogen flutamide. On the other hand, flutamide had no significant effect on the increase in uterine weight caused by DHEA, thus suggesting a predominant estrogenic effect of DHEA at the level of the uterus and an estrogenic effect on the feedback control of LH secretion. The present data show a relatively high bioavailability of percutaneous DHEA as measured by its androgenic and/or estrogenic biological activity in well-characterized peripheral target intracrime tissues in the rat.

J Endocrinol. 1996 Sep;150 Suppl:S107-18

Recent developments of melatonin related antioxidant compounds.

Melatonin is known for its radical scavenger activity, which is related to its ability to protect cells from different kinds of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been implicated in the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, epileptic seizures, stroke, and as a contributor to aging and some cancer types. The antioxidant properties of melatonin include scavenging free radicals and the regulation of the activity and expression of antioxidant and pro-oxidant enzymes. Due to its free radical scavenger and antioxidant properties, multiple melatonin-related compounds such as melatonin metabolites and synthetic analogues are under investigation to determine which exhibit the highest activity with the lowest side effects. This review addresses recent studies with melatonin and related compounds.

Comb Chem High Throughput Screen. 2006 Jul;9(6):409-19

Clinical perspectives for the use of melatonin as a chronobiotic and cytoprotective agent.

The circadian time system involves periodic gene expression at the cellular level, synchronized by a hierarchically superior structure located in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei. Treatment of circadian rhythm disorders has led to the development of a new type of agent called “chronobiotics,” among which melatonin is the prototype. In elderly insomniacs, melatonin treatment decreased sleep latency and increased sleep efficiency, particularly slow-wave sleep. The effect of melatonin on sleep is the consequence of increasing sleep propensity (by augmenting the amplitude of circadian clock oscillation via MT1 receptors) and of synchronizing the circadian clock via MT2 receptors. Daily melatonin production decreases with age and in several pathologies, attaining its lowest values in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients. About 45% of AD patients have disruptions in their sleep and “sundowning” agitation. Generally, melatonin treatment decreases sundowning in AD patients and reduced variability of sleep onset time. Both open and controlled studies have indicated a significant decrease of cognitive deterioration in AD patients treated with melatonin. The mechanisms accounting for the possible therapeutic effect of melatonin in AD patients may be manifold. On one hand, melatonin treatment promotes slow-wave sleep in the elderly and could be beneficial by augmenting the restorative phases of sleep. On the other hand, melatonin protects neurons against beta-amyloid toxicity. By its combined chronobiotic and cytoprotective properties melatonin provides an innovative neuroprotective strategy to reduce the cost of lifetime treatment of some neuropsychiatric disorders.

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Dec;1057:327-36.

Melatonin in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

ABSTRACT: Increased oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction have been identified as common pathophysiological phenomena associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Huntington’s disease (HD). As the age-related decline in the production of melatonin may contribute to increased levels of oxidative stress in the elderly, the role of this neuroprotective agent is attracting increasing attention. Melatonin has multiple actions as a regulator of antioxidant and prooxidant enzymes, radical scavenger and antagonist of mitochondrial radical formation. The ability of melatonin and its kynuramine metabolites to interact directly with the electron transport chain by increasing the electron flow and reducing electron leakage are unique features by which melatonin is able to increase the survival of neurons under enhanced oxidative stress. Moreover, antifibrillogenic actions have been demonstrated in vitro, also in the presence of profibrillogenic apoE4 or apoE3, and in vivo, in a transgenic mouse model. Amyloid-beta toxicity is antagonized by melatonin and one of its kynuramine metabolites. Cytoskeletal disorganization and protein hyperphosphorylation, as induced in several cell-line models, have been attenuated by melatonin, effects comprising stress kinase downregulation and extending to neurotrophin expression. Various experimental models of AD, PD and HD indicate the usefulness of melatonin in antagonizing disease progression and/or mitigating some of the symptoms. Melatonin secretion has been found to be altered in AD and PD. Attempts to compensate for age- and disease-dependent melatonin deficiency have shown that administration of this compound can improve sleep efficiency in AD and PD and, to some extent, cognitive function in AD patients. Exogenous melatonin has also been reported to alleviate behavioral symptoms such as sundowning. Taken together, these findings suggest that melatonin, its analogues and kynuric metabolites may have potential value in prevention and treatment of AD and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Behav Brain Funct. 2006 May 4;2(1):15

Estrogen-signaling pathway: a link between breast cancer and melatonin oncostatic actions.

BACKGROUND: Melatonin exerts oncostatic effects on different kinds of tumors, especially on endocrine-responsive breast cancer. The most common conclusion is that melatonin reduces the incidence and growth of chemically induced mammary tumors, in vivo, and inhibits the proliferation and metastatic behavior of human breast cancer cells, in vitro. Both studies support the hypothesis that melatonin oncostatic actions on hormone-dependent mammary tumors are mainly based on its anti-estrogenic actions. METHODS AND RESULTS: Two different mechanisms have been proposed to explain how melatonin reduces the development of breast cancer throughout its interactions with the estrogen-signaling pathways: (a) the indirect neuroendocrine mechanism which includes the melatonin down-regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary reproductive axis and the consequent reduction of circulating levels of gonadal estrogens and (b) direct melatonin actions at tumor cell level. Melatonin’s direct effect on mammary tumor cells is that it interferes with the activation of the estrogen receptor, thus behaving as a selective estrogen receptor modulator. Melatonin also regulates the activity of the aromatases, the enzymes responsible for the local synthesis of estrogens, thus behaving as a selective estrogen enzyme modulator. CONCLUSIONS: The same molecule has both properties to selectively neutralize the effects of estrogens on the breast and the local biosynthesis of estrogens from androgens, one of the main objectives of recent antitumor pharmacological therapeutic strategies. It is these action mechanisms that collectively make melatonin an interesting anticancer drug in the prevention and treatment of estrogen-dependent tumors, since it has the advantage of acting at different levels of the estrogen-signaling pathways.

Cancer Detect Prev. 2006;30(2):118-28

Melatonin in the treatment of cancer: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials and meta-analysis.

Most observational studies show an association between melatonin and cancer in humans. We conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of melatonin in solid tumor cancer patients and its effect on survival at 1 yr. With the aid of an information specialist, we searched 10 electronic databases from inception to October 2004. We included trials using melatonin as either sole treatment or as adjunct treatment. Prespecified criteria guided our assessment of trial quality. We conducted a meta-analysis using a random effects model. We included 10 RCTs published between 1992 and 2003 and included 643 patients. All trials included solid tumor cancers. All trials were conducted at the same hospital network, and were unblinded. Melatonin reduced the risk of death at 1 yr (relative risk: 0.66, 95% confidence interval: 0.59-0.73, I2=0%, heterogeneity P<or=0.56). Effects were consistent across melatonin dose, and type of cancer. No severe adverse events were reported. The substantial reduction in risk of death, low adverse events reported and low costs related to this intervention suggest great potential for melatonin in treating cancer. Confirming the efficacy and safety of melatonin in cancer treatment will require completion of blinded, independently conducted RCTs.

J Pineal Res. 2005 Nov;39(4):360-6

Melatonin-estrogen interactions in breast cancer.

In this article, we review the experimental data supporting an oncostatic role of melatonin on hormone-dependent mammary tumors. Beginning with the evidence on the role of estrogens in breast cancer etiology and mammary tumor growth, we summarize the actual therapeutic strategies with estrogens as a target. Additionally, we demonstrate that melatonin fulfills all the requirements to be considered as an antiestrogenic drug which shares properties with drugs of the two main pharmacological groups of substances which interact with the estrogen-signaling pathways such as: (i) drugs that act through the estrogen receptor interfering with the effects of endogenous estrogens; and (ii) drugs that interfere with the synthesis of estrogens by inhibiting the enzymes controlling the interconversion from their androgenic precursors. Furthermore, melatonin decreases circulating levels of estradiol. These three antiestrogenic mechanisms suggest that melatonin may have an important role in the prevention and treatment of hormone-dependent mammary cancer.

J Pineal Res. 2005 May;38(4):217-22

Effects of exogenous melatonin on sleep: a meta-analysis.

Exogenous melatonin reportedly induces drowsiness and sleep, and may ameliorate sleep disturbances, including the nocturnal awakenings associated with old age. However, existing studies on the soporific efficacy of melatonin have been highly heterogeneous in regard to inclusion and exclusion criteria, measures to evaluate insomnia, doses of the medication, and routes of administration. We reviewed and analyzed (by meta-analysis) available information on effects of exogenous melatonin on sleep. A MEDLINE search (1980 to December 2003) provided English-language articles, supplemented by personal files maintained by the authors. The analysis used information derived from 17 different studies (involving 284 subjects) that satisfied inclusion criteria. Sleep onset latency, total sleep duration, and sleep efficiency were selected as the outcome measures. The study effect size was taken to be the difference between the response on placebo and the mean response on melatonin for each outcome measured. Melatonin treatment significantly reduced sleep onset latency by 4.0 min (95% CI 2.5, 5.4); increased sleep efficiency by 2.2% (95% CI 0.2, 4.2), and increased total sleep duration by 12.8 min (95% CI 2.9, 22.8). Since 15 of the 17 studies enrolled healthy subjects or people with no relevant medical condition other than insomnia, the analysis was also done including only these 15 studies. The sleep onset results were changed to 3.9 min (95% CI (2.5, 5.4)); sleep efficiency increased to 3.1% (95% CI (0.7, 5.5)); sleep duration increased to 13.7 min (95% CI (3.1, 24.3)).

Sleep Med Rev. 2005 Feb;9(1):41-50

Melatonin pharmacotherapy for nocturia in men with benign prostatic enlargement.

PURPOSE: Nocturia is a common condition often attributed in aging men to benign prostatic enlargement. Older adults are prone to nocturnal sleep disturbance, of which disturbed circadian rhythm may be a component since it improves with nighttime administration of melatonin. This study was designed to investigate melatonin as a potential treatment for nocturia associated with bladder outflow obstruction in older men. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 20 men with urodynamically confirmed bladder outflow obstruction and nocturia were entered into a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled crossover study assessing the effect of 2 mg controlled release melatonin at night on nocturia. Symptoms were assessed at baseline and after each 4-week treatment period using a frequency volume chart, the International Prostate Symptom Score and symptom problem index. Maximum urinary flow rate and post-void residual urine volume were also assessed. RESULTS: Baseline frequency of nocturia was 3.1 episodes per night. There were 7 men (35%) with detrusor overactivity and 10 (50%) had nocturnal polyuria. Melatonin and placebo caused a decrease in nocturia of 0.32 and 0.05 episodes per night (p = 0.07) and a decrease in the nocturia bother score of 0.51 and 0.05, respectively (p = 0.008). Nocturia responder rates (a reduction from baseline of at least -0.5 episodes per night) differed between the active medication and placebo groups (p = 0.04). Daytime urinary frequency, International Prostate Symptom Score, relative nocturnal urine volume, maximum urinary flow rate and post-void residual were unaffected by melatonin treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Melatonin treatment is associated with a significant nocturia response rate, improvement in nocturia related bother and a good adverse effect profile. However, it is uncertain whether the observed changes in this study are clinically significant.

J Urol. 2004 Mar;171(3):1199-202

Prolonged melatonin admini-stration decreases nocturnal blood pressure in women.

BACKGROUND: The nocturnal decline of blood pressure (BP) is almost coincident with the elevation of melatonin, which may exert vasodilatating and hypotensive effects. In this study we investigated whether prolonged nocturnal administration of melatonin could influence the daily rhythm of BP in women. METHODS: In a randomized double-blind study, 18 women, 47 to 63 years of age and with normal BP (N = 9) or treated essential hypertension (N = 9), received a 3-week course of a slow-release melatonin pill (3 mg) or placebo 1 h before going to bed. They were then crossed over to the other treatment for another 3 weeks. In each woman ambulatory BP was recorded for 41 h at baseline at the end of each treatment period. RESULTS: In comparison with placebo, melatonin administration did not influence diurnal BP but did significantly decrease nocturnal systolic (-3.77 +/- 1.7 mm Hg, P = .0423), diastolic (-3.63 +/- 1.3 mm Hg, P = .0153), and mean (-3.71 +/- 1.3 mm Hg, P = .013) BP without modifying heart rate. The effect was inversely related to the day-night difference in BP. CONCLUSION: These data indicate that prolonged administration of melatonin may improve the day-night rhythm of BP, particularly in women with a blunted nocturnal decline.

Am J Hypertens. 2005 Dec;18(12 Pt 1):1614-8

Daily nighttime melatonin reduces blood pressure in male patients with essential hypertension.

Patients with essential hypertension have disturbed autonomic cardiovascular regulation and circadian pacemaker function. Recently, the biological clock was shown to be involved in autonomic cardiovascular regulation. Our objective was to determine whether enhancement of the functioning of the biological clock by repeated nighttime melatonin intake might reduce ambulatory blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension. We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial in 16 men with untreated essential hypertension to investigate the influence of acute (single) and repeated (daily for 3 weeks) oral melatonin (2.5 mg) intake 1 hour before sleep on 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure and actigraphic estimates of sleep quality. Repeated melatonin intake reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure during sleep by 6 and 4 mm Hg, respectively. The treatment did not affect heart rate. The day-night amplitudes of the rhythms in systolic and diastolic blood pressures were increased by 15% and 25%, respectively. A single dose of melatonin had no effect on blood pressure. Repeated (but not acute) melatonin also improved sleep. Improvements in blood pressure and sleep were statistically unrelated. In patients with essential hypertension, repeated bedtime melatonin intake significantly reduced nocturnal blood pressure. Future studies in larger patient group should be performed to define the characteristics of the patients who would benefit most from melatonin intake. The present study suggests that support of circadian pacemaker function may provide a new strategy in the treatment of essential hypertension.

Hypertension. 2004 Feb;43(2):192-7

Oxidative stress and neuro-degeneration.

Oxidative stress is a well-studied early response in chronic neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, where neuronal loss can exceed 90% in the vulnerable neuronal population. Oxidative stress affects all classes of macromolecules (sugar, lipids, proteins, and DNA), leading inevitably to neuronal dysfunction. We observed that Nepsilon-(carboxymethyl)lysine (CML), the predominant advanced glycation end product that accumulates in vivo, along with its glycation-specific precursor hexitol-lysine, are increased in neurons from cases of Alzheimer’s disease, especially those containing intracellular neurofibrillary pathology. The increase in hexitol-lysine and CML can result from either lipid peroxidation or advanced glycation, whereas hexitol-lysine is solely a product of glycation, suggesting that two distinct oxidative processes act in concert in the neuropathology of the disease. Furthermore, using olfactory neurons as an experimental model, we observed an increase in glycation products in neurons derived from Alzheimer’s disease patients. Our findings support the idea that aldehyde-mediated modifications, in concert with oxyradical-mediated modifications, are critical early pathogenic factors in Alzheimer’s disease.

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Jun;1043:545-52

Hypoxia facilitates Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis by up-regulating BACE1 gene expression.

The molecular mechanism underlying the pathogenesis of the majority of cases of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is unknown. A history of stroke was found to be associated with development of some AD cases, especially in the presence of vascular risk factors. Reduced cerebral perfusion is a common vascular component among AD risk factors, and hypoxia is a direct consequence of hypoperfusion. Previously we showed that expression of the beta-site beta-amyloid precursor protein (APP) cleavage enzyme 1 (BACE1) gene BACE1 is tightly controlled at both the transcriptional and translational levels and that increased BACE1 maturation contributes to the AD pathogenesis in Down’s syndrome. Here we have identified a functional hypoxia-responsive element in the BACE1 gene promoter. Hypoxia up-regulated beta-secretase cleavage of APP and amyloid-beta protein (Abeta) production by increasing BACE1 gene transcription and expression both in vitro and in vivo. Hypoxia treatment markedly increased Abeta deposition and neuritic plaque formation and potentiated the memory deficit in Swedish mutant APP transgenic mice. Taken together, our results clearly demonstrate that hypoxia can facilitate AD pathogenesis, and they provide a molecular mechanism linking vascular factors to AD. Our study suggests that interventions to improve cerebral perfusion may benefit AD patients.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Dec 5;103(49):18727-32

Oxidants, antioxidants, and the degenerative diseases of aging.

Metabolism, like other aspects of life, involves tradeoffs. Oxidant by-products of normal metabolism cause extensive damage to DNA, protein, and lipid. We argue that this damage (the same as that produced by radiation) is a major contributor to aging and to degenerative diseases of aging such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, immune-system decline, brain dysfunction, and cataracts. Antioxidant defenses against this damage include ascorbate, tocopherol, and carotenoids. Dietary fruits and vegetables are the principal source of ascorbate and carotenoids and are one source of tocopherol. Low dietary intake of fruits and vegetables doubles the risk of most types of cancer as compared to high intake and also markedly increases the risk of heart disease and cataracts. Since only 9% of Americans eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, the opportunity for improving health by improving diet is great.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Sep 1;90(17):7915-22

The protective action of alpha-tocopherol on the white matter lipids during moderate hypoxia in rats.

Hypoxia and ischemia acting on the brain cause alterations of the level of lipids and sterols. Famile 3.0-3.5-month-old rats were used for the experiment. They were given alpha-tocopherol in the dose of 11.43 mg/kg of body weight through seven days, then underwent hypoxia (7% of oxygen in the breathing mixture) and myelin was isolated in four times after experiment: 4, 24 hours, 14 days and 2 months after experiment. Three lipids groups were isolated that are neutral lipids, galactolipids and phospholipids. They were quantitatively analyzed with spectrophotocolorimetry. The obtained results indicate that vitamin E administration to animals does not cause significant changes of brain lipids levels. However, alpha-tocopherol administred before moderate hypoxia balances the concentrations of lisophosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylinositide and cerebrosides with control level 2 months after experiment. Vitamin E changes in concentration of the myelin neutral lipids. Vitamin E administered before experimental moderate hypoxia stabilizes some membrane lipids and could be used in brain hypoxia.

Folia Neuropathol. 2005;43(2):103-8

Protective effect of resveratrol against oxygen-glucose deprivation in organotypic hippocampal slice cultures: Involvement of PI3-K pathway.

Here we investigated the neuroprotective effect of resveratrol in an in vitro model of ischemia. We used organotypic hippocampal cultures exposed to oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD). In OGD-vehicle exposed cultures, about 46% of the hippocampus was labeled with PI, indicating a robust percentage of cell death. When cultures were treated with resveratrol 10, 25, and 50 microM, the cell death was reduced to 22, 20, and 13% respectively. To elucidate a possible mechanism by which resveratrol exerts its neuroprotective effect, we investigated the phosphoinositide3-kinase (PI3-k) pathway using LY294002 (5 microM) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) using PD98059 (20 microM). The resveratrol (50 microM) neuroprotection was prevented by LY294002 but was not by PD98059. Immunoblotting revealed that resveratrol 50 microM induced the phosphorylation/activation of Akt and extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1 and -2 (ERK1/2) and the phosphorylation/inactivation of glycogen synthase kinase-3beta (GSK-3beta). Our results suggest that PI3-k/Akt pathway are involved in the neuroprotective effect of resveratrol.

Neurobiol Dis. 2006 Oct;24(1):170-82. Epub 2006 Jul 24

A diet enriched with the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid reduces amyloid burden in an aged Alzheimer mouse model.

Epidemiological studies suggest that increased intake of the omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). DHA levels are lower in serum and brains of AD patients, which could result from low dietary intake and/or PUFA oxidation. Because effects of DHA on Alzheimer pathogenesis, particularly on amyloidosis, are unknown, we used the APPsw (Tg2576) transgenic mouse model to evaluate the impact of dietary DHA on amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing and amyloid burden. Aged animals (17-19 months old) were placed in one of three groups until 22.5 months of age: control (0.09% DHA), low-DHA (0%), or high-DHA (0.6%) chow. beta-Amyloid (Abeta) ELISA of the detergent-insoluble extract of cortical homogenates showed that DHA-enriched diets significantly reduced total Abeta by >70% when compared with low-DHA or control chow diets. Dietary DHA also decreased Abeta42 levels below those seen with control chow. Image analysis of brain sections with an antibody against Abeta (amino acids 1-13) revealed that overall plaque burden was significantly reduced by 40.3%, with the largest reductions (40-50%) in the hippocampus and parietal cortex. DHA modulated APP processing by decreasing both alpha- and beta-APP C-terminal fragment products and full-length APP. BACE1 (beta-secretase activity of the beta-site APP-cleaving enzyme), ApoE (apolipoprotein E), and transthyretin gene expression were unchanged with the high-DHA diet. Together, these results suggest that dietary DHA could be protective against beta-amyloid production, accumulation, and potential downstream toxicity.

J Neurosci. 2005 Mar 23;25(12):3032-40

Actions of Ginkgo Biloba related to potential utility for the treatment of conditions involving cerebral hypoxia.

Neuronal hypoxia results from a variety of cerebrovascular accidents or ‘normal’ age-associated anatomic changes. The consequences vary from mild deficits in neurologic function to massive neuropathology. Present pharmacotherapeutic therapy is not ideal. Two apparently disparate approaches to the search for better treatment or prevention-one involving reassessment of herbal remedies as ‘alternative’ medicine and the other one involving the desirability of increased structural diversity in HTS (high-throughput screening) libraries and as combinatorial chemistry templates-have converged in a rekindling of interest and a reevaluation of the pharmacologic properties of substances such as extract from the leaves of Ginkgo biloba Linne (form. Salisburia adiantifolia Sm.). There are reports of positive results from a small number of controlled clinical trials (albeit with small numbers of patients) sufficient to suggest that ‘Ginkgo’ might have therapeutic benefit in some situations or subset of patients. The pharmacologic mechanism by which Ginkgo might be able to provide the observed effect is not clear. However, it is believed that the flavonoid and terpenoid components of Ginkgo extract might produce beneficial therapeutic effects through mechanisms acting separately or in concert, such as the antagonism of PAF (platelet activating factor), antioxidant and metabolic actions, and effects on neurotransmitters. These mechanisms are reviewed in this article.

Life Sci. 2000 Aug 11;67(12):1389-96