A massive clinical trial began this month to determine the effectiveness of the female sex hormone progesterone as a treatment for brain injurypatients. An earlier study of 100 patients revealed that receiving progesterone shortly after incurring a brain injury reduced the death rate by half and led to an improvement in patients’ ability to recover compared to a control group who received a placebo, according to aGuardian article.
The clinical trial will include 1,140 randomly assigned brain injury patients who arrive in emergency rooms at hospitals in 15 states within 11 hours of their injuries. ‘The trial is the final step before application for a license to use the hormone as a standard treatment for brain injury. Progesterone is cheap and already approved for other medical uses,’ the article reported. Patients will receive either a three-day course of progesterone treatments or a placebo.
If progesterone proves as effective at treating brain injuries as it did in the initial 100-patient trial, it stands to become the ‘first new treatment for three decades to boost patients’ chances of surviving and recovering from a major brain injury,’ the Guardian article noted. Inspiration for the initial progesterone trials arose when doctors discovered that women had better outcomes and responses to therapy after brain injuries than men did. A professor involved in the study, Donald Stein, told the Guardian that medical teams found that progesterone had protective effects on brain cells and tissues.
Two years ago, doctors at Zhejian University in China conducted a progesterone trial on 159 brain injury patients. Progesterone was given to 82 of the patients, and a placebo was given to the rest. While not as conclusive as the 100-patient study, the Chinese doctors found that, ‘Out of the 40 patients who died of their injuries, 32 percent had received a placebo infusion, while only 18% had been given progesterone,’ the article said. Further, ‘Six months after treatment, the patients who received progesterone had recovered better than those who received placebo, suggesting their brains had not been as severely damaged.’
The combined results of the studies point at progesterone as a highly effective treatment for severe brain injuries. It is likely only a matter of time before the hormone receives approval for use in brain injury patients.
Sample, Ian. (February 19, 2010) ‘Sex hormone progesterone may save lives after brain injury.’ Retrieved on February 21, 2010 from the Guardian Web site:http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/feb/19/sex-hormone-progesterone-b…