The neuroprotection research in the last 2 decades has witnessed a growing interest in the functions of estrogens as neuroprotectants against neurodegenerative diseases including stroke. The neuroprotective action of estrogens has been well demonstrated in both in vitro and in vivo models of ischemic stroke. However, the major conducted clinical trials so far have raised concern for the protective effect of estrogen replacement therapy in postmenopausal women. The discrepancy could be partly due to the mistranslation between the experimental stroke research and clinical trials. While predominant experimental studies tested the protective action of estrogens on ischemic stroke using acute treatment paradigm, the clinical trials have mainly focused on the effect of estrogen replacement therapy on the primary and secondary stroke prevention which has not been adequately addressed in the experimental stroke study. Although the major conducted clinical trials have indicated that estrogen replacement therapy has an adverse effect and raise concern for long term estrogen replacement therapy for stroke prevention, these are not appropriate for assessing the potential effects of acute estrogen treatment on stroke protection. The well established action of estrogen in the neurovascular unit and its potential interaction with recombinant tissue Plasminogen Activator (rtPA) makes it a candidate for the combined therapy with rtPA for the acute treatment of ischemic stroke. On the other hand, the critical period and newly emerged biomarkers window hypotheses have indicated that many clinical relevant factors have been underestimated in the experimental ischemic stroke research. The development and application of ischemic stroke models that replicate the clinical condition is essential for further evaluation of acute estrogen treatment on ischemic stroke which might provide critical information for future clinical trials. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Hormone Therapy.
- Neurovascular unit
- Recombinant tissue plasminogen activator