Menopause is a phase in women with lowered estrogen levels. This deficiency affects the number and function of muscle stem cells or satellite cells. Estrogen replacement therapy can help maintain muscle health, but estrogen leads to cancer risks in breast and endometrium. Studies are on for new drugs that interact with estrogen receptors in a way that doesn't affect breast or endometrial tissue.
New University of Minnesota Medical School research is the first to show that estrogen is essential to maintaining muscle stem cell health.
In an article recently published in Cell Reports, lead authors Dawn Lowe, PhD, Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Division of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science Graduate Program, University of Minnesota Medical School and Michael Kyba, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics and Carrie Ramey/CCRF Endowed Professor in Pediatric Cancer Research, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, University of Minnesota Medical School, are the first to establish that estrogen is essential in females for muscle stem cell maintenance and function.
It has been known that estrogen replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms can help maintain muscle health. But such hormone replacement therapy which treats weakening muscles also raises the risk of cancer due to estrogen's effects on tissues, such as those of the breast and endometrium. The team showed that a new class of drug, known to interact with estrogen receptors in a way that doesn't affect breast or endometrial tissue, was able to stimulate the estrogen signal in muscle stem cells and could potentially shield aging women from muscle stem cell decline due to menopause, without the risks associated with conventional hormone replacement therapy.
"It has long been known that male sex hormones promote muscle health, but we have been in the dark about what happens when females age," said Lowe. "What estrogen does in women in terms of reproduction has been known for decades. Now we're learning what estrogens do in women's muscles."