An investigational drug to treat hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms selectively delivers estrogen only to the brain, sparing other organs from hormone exposure and potential side effects. Results from a study on animal models appear in Science Translational Medicine.

Called DHED (10β, 17β-dihydroxyestra-1,4-dien-3-one), this prodrug is selectively converted to one main estrogen; in menopausal female rodents, DHED offered protection from neurological symptoms of estrogen deprivation and provided neuroprotection after a stroke without negative uterotrophic and cancerous effects of the free hormone.

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DHED has not yet been studied in humans, but scientists say that if these results are replicated it could offer women an alternative to currently available hormone replacement therapies without restrictions on dose and duration of treatment that accompany present medications.

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