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Research Departments >Functional and Systems Neurobiology department > Neuroactive steroids> Research Report

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Neuroactive steroids

Among the signals that affect brain development and function, neuroactive steroids play an important role. We are investigating the mechanisms of action of neuroactive steroids on neurons and glial cells. Our main emphasis is on the effects of ovarian hormones on neural plasticity and neuroprotection.

Our group is interested in studying the effects of estrogens on the brain. Estrogens, in addition to being gonadal hormones, are neuroactive steroids that are synthesized in the brain.

We have approached the studies from two aspects:

1) Neuroprotection: Estrogens have been shown to be neuroprotective in animal models of nervous system diseases, which occur with neuroinflammation and have sexual differences either in incidence, age of onset, symptomatology and treatment response.

Such studies are aimed to characterize the response of glial cells astrocytes and microglia in inflammation models, the sexual differences of that response and the effect of exogenous estrogens in both sexes.

2) Proneural signal triggers during development under physiological conditions and focused on repair in case of injury; in this context we have described a signaling pathway by which estradiol is able to inhibit the Notch receptor signaling pathway and modify the dendritic tree and synaptogenesis of cultured neurons. Under this paradigm we have identified and described the intervention of proteins Ngn3, Formin1 and Kinesin 21B. We are currently studying the role of Kif21B, as a mediator of the increase in the expression of Ngn3 produced by estradiol.

The results obtained in both situations lead us to wonder whether certain diseases of the nervous system should be treated differently in men and women.

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