A NEW TESTOSTERONE GEL shows promise for combating the effects of multiple sclerosis in men. Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl, director of UCLA’s Multiple Sclerosis Program, and Dr. Nancy Sicotte, assistant professor of neurology, found that application of the testosterone gel reduced symptoms, slowed brain degeneration and boosted muscle mass in 10 men with relapsing-remitting MS, the most common form of the disease. In relapsing-remitting MS, episodes of neurological symptoms, such as numbness or disturbed balance and gait, are followed by symptom-free periods of remission.
For the first six months of the study, the researchers monitored the men’s symptoms but did not treat them. For the next 12 months, each man applied 10 grams of a gel containing 100 milligrams of testosterone once a day to his upper arms. “After a year, we saw an improvement in cognitive performance and a slowing of brain deterioration,” says Dr. Voskuhl. During the fi nal nine months of gel application, in fact, the rate of brain deterioration in the men slowed by 67 percent. The men’s muscle mass also increased an average of 3.74 pounds during the treatment phase. The Archives of Neurology reported the findings in May.
“Another optimistic observation was that the testosterone protected against brain atrophy without causing a significant anti-inflammatory effect,” says Dr. Voskuhl. “This suggests that the protection provided by testosterone may not be limited to MS. It may also apply to other non-inflammatory neurodegenerative diseases.”
Like many other autoimmune diseases, MS is less common in men than in women, affecting about three women to every man. Dr. Voskuhl suspects that sex hormones and/or sex chromosomes may explain the higher incidence in women.