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

esponse to inflammation and thereby ostensibly protect the brain from secondary damage have anything to do with that? Saldanha thinks the answer could be yes.

"Most humans will have minor strokes in their lifetimessuch as a blood vessel bursting and they are no big deal," Saldanha said. "How do we know they happen and are no big deal? We have autopsies of elderly patients who have never had symptoms of stroke, but we look at their brains and there are all of these tiny lesions."

But every once in a while, a lesion becomes bad enough that the person exhibits signs of stroke such as losing the ability to speak or motor skills on a particular side of the body.

"When that happens, it means two things. One, the actual primary damage probably occurred 24 hours in advance because what results is a cascade of cell death around the primary site of damage," Saldanha said. "And two, the symptoms we see are actually the spreading of secondary damage. By the time we see the symptoms, the damage has already been done. It is too late to stop it."

The next phase of Saldnha's research will focus in part on confirming whether the estrogen produced in songbird brains does indeed prevent secondary brain damage. It is one part of his greater effort to more clearly understand the mysteries of estrogen production and provision.

"The research tells us something fundamentally new about hormonal signaling, I believe," Saldanha said. "Right now, I am convinced that what we're looking at is real and it has taken about seven years for me to be convinced that it is real. I can make up a good story about why it's a good thing to parcel out and specifically provide estradiol [estrogen] to specific targets at the right time, but it would be nice to have a handle on the exact function of that synaptic estrogen provision. And that is the next cycle."


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