Estrogen replacement therapy in postmenopausal women ameliorates cognitive dysfunction and decreases the risk and/or severity of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and stroke. Furthermore, estradiol exerts neuroprotective effects in a variety of in vitro and in vivo models of brain injury. We have previously shown that physiological levels of estradiol attenuate ischemic brain injury in young female rats. However, neurodegenerative events occur more frequently in elderly women who are chronically hypoestrogenic. Therefore, we investigated whether aging rats remain responsive to the neuroprotective actions of estradiol. Young (3-4 months) and middle-aged (9-12 months) rats were ovariectomized and treated for 1 week with estradiol before middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO). Regional cerebral blood flow was monitored in some animals at the time of injury. Brains were collected 24 h after MCAO and infarct volume was analyzed. Our data demonstrate that in both young and aging rats, low and high physiological doses of estradiol decrease ischemic injury by almost 50%, compared with oil-treated controls. Additionally, our data suggest that estradiol acts in both age groups via blood flow-independent mechanisms, as basal and postinjury blood flow was equivalent between estradiol- and oil-treated young and aging rats. These data demonstrate that replacement with physiological levels of estradiol protects against stroke-related injury in young and aging female rats and strongly suggest that older animals remain responsive to the protective actions of estradiol.
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