Obsessive-compulsive disorder in some men could be caused by low levels of oestrogen, meaning it might be possible to treat the disease with drugs that mimic the hormone, mice studies suggest.
Wah Chin Boon and her colleagues at the Prince Henry’s Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne noticed that in a strain of mice that produces no oestrogen, the males behave in ways similar to people with OCD, such as excessive grooming and wheel running. Brain levels of COMT, an enzyme implicated in human OCD, were also halved in the oestrogen-deficient male mice. Oestrogen-deficient female mice did not show symptoms of OCD, suggesting that different mechanisms trigger OCD in females.When the male mice were given oestrogen replacement therapy for three weeks, their running and grooming activity returned to normal, as did COMT levels, the team reported this week at an Endocrine Society meeting in San Diego, California.”It’s very exciting. It strongly suggests that oestrogen plays a role in OCD,” says psychiatrist Jayashri Kulkarni of the Alfred Hospital, also in Melbourne. And she says drugs that mimic specific effects of oestrogen on the brain without “feminising” the body are becoming available, raising the possibility of new treatments for men with OCD.Just as many women as men suffer from OCD, which affects around 1 in 100 people, but men tend to develop the disorder at a younger age and have more severe symptoms.(Source: New Scientist: issue 2503, 11 June 2005, page 19.)