Dr Sonia Davison from Monash University’s Women’s Health program led the study and said the results could form the basis of a new therapy to slow cognitive decline and reduce dementia in women.
“Memory loss is one of the warning signs of dementia,” Dr Davison said.
“As women age their testosterone levels decrease, reaching a low at age 65, which also happens to be the age at which dementia incidence begins to climb.”
“Compared to men, women have far less testosterone and double the rate of dementia, hence the thought that maybe testosterone protects memory.”
“This study investigated whether restoring women to their youthful testosterone levels would improve memory, as finding a way to reduce the onset of dementia could impact the lives of countless women worldwide.”
The study compared a control group of 30 women, who received no treatment, with a group of nine women in early menopause (ages 47 to 60) who received the testosterone spray on their skin.
The spray dose returned testosterone levels to those typical of young women of childbearing age.
After 26 weeks the testosterone-treated group had significantly improved their verbal learning and memory, while the control group showed no significant change.
“What is exciting is that the testosterone-treated women were all healthy, with no cognitive impairment, and there was still a definite treatment effect from the spray,” Dr Davison said.
Dr Davison is now recruiting larger numbers of women aged 55-70 to participate in follow-up studies that will trial a testosterone gel and a testosterone patch.
Women in Australia who are interested in participating should contact Monash University’s Women’s Health Program on 03 9903 0827.
An abstract from Dr Davison’s study was presented this morning as part of The Endocrine Society’s 93rd Annual Meeting in Boston, USA. The abstract was also selected for inclusion in the Society’s Research Summaries Book, which aims to promote exciting research to the public.
The National Health and Medical Research Council, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians Research and Education Foundation, and FemPharm, which makes the testosterone spray for women.