Toward a Better Understanding of Hormones and Stroke


Marguerite Littleton-Kearney

A five-year $1.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will allow associate professor Marguerite Littleton-Kearney to build on her research examining how hormone therapy could potentially reduce the severity of stroke.

“Women are less likely than men to have a stroke during their reproductive years, but after age 65, men and women suffer from strokes at about the same rate,” says Littleton-Kearney, PhD, RN, FAAN. “But our understanding of the role of hormones in females during and immediately after stroke has been quite limited.”

The grant is a continuation of a previous NIH-funded study in which Littleton-Kearney found that rats receiving estrogen before suffering cerebral ischemia, the restriction of blood flow to the brain, recovered brain blood vessel reactivity better than rats that did not get estrogen. With the new funding, she and her colleagues will give oral hormone replacement therapy to young and aged rats to examine the effects of both progesterone and estrogen on brain blood flow. The researchers’ goal: to attempt to determine the mechanism by which hormones preserve brain blood flow.

Littleton-Kearney will conduct her research with co-investigator Ray Koehler, PhD, professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, where Littleton-Kearney holds a secondary appointment.