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Songbird brain synapses and glial cells capable of synthesizing estrogen
Date:1/3/2012

This is research Saldanha and colleagues began in 2000. The Journal of Neuroinflammation recently published their coauthored article. Saldanha and his fellow researcher found that glial cells, the most abundant cells in the central nervous system but mistakenly long considered less important than neurons, are also capable of synthesizing estrogen in the brain under certain conditionsspecifically, inflammation.

Saldanha first noticed this in response to a specific injury to a songbird's brain. The injury occurred in a part of the brain where cells do not normally express aromatase.

"There were no cells that made estrogen on that side of the brain," Saldanha said. "But 24 hours later, I realized these cells [the cells in the injured part of the brain] were making aromatase."

In addition, Saldanha found that the estrogen seemed to prevent further damage to the brain. He discovered this by introducing to the injured area a drug to inhibit estrogen production, after which the amount of damage increased.

Saldanha and his colleague reasoned that the injury prompted an inflammatory response and that this inflammatory responsenot the actual injuryprompted the glial cells to begin to produce estrogen. They tested the hypothesis by inducing inflammation without injury and saw the same response.

"It's very much like what happens when you get a paper cut," Saldanha said. "You cut your skin and expose your insides to the nasty toxins of the environment. Your immune cells are attracted to the area to protect it. In this case, these songbirds have the ability to respond to an inflammatory event rapidly by prompting cells that do not make estrogen to suddenly begin producing it."

Do Songbirds Have Strokes?

We don't know if songbirds have strokes. But humans do and the results can be devastating and at times, fatal. Does the ability of songbird brain cells to rapidly make estrogen in r
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