Progesterone and Traumatic Brain Injury: A New Frontier in Hormone Research

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When most people read about women’s health and hormones, they assume it will be a piece about birth control pills or a study on menopausal hormone therapies.  Many fail to realize that hormones have physiological effects far beyond the reproductive, with impacts on every major body system of females and males. A disruption or dysfunction in one hormone system can trickle down into other hormone systems and other body systems.  Basic and clinical research are recognizing and factoring in these system-wide impacts in novel ways, including new research that has the potential to improve the health of our military service members and veterans.

Perhaps some of the most exciting research in this area is the effect progesterone, a sex hormone associated with females, elevated during pregnancy, but also present naturally in males, may have on protection of brain cells.  Promising research shows that progesterone may have the potential to save brain tissue after an injury—potentially setting the stage for a first in class treatment to stop the loss of brain cells after a blast, altering the detrimental sequence of events that happen after a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  Differences have been seen in outcomes even as a function of monthly fluctuations of progesterone noted during the menstrual cycle.  Progesterone can dramatically reduce brain swelling in males and females, can act as an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, and can stimulate expression of growth factors in response to injury.

TBI is not the only area where innovative hormone diagnostics and research may contribute to improved health outcomes.  Links between hormonal networks and depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and complex wound healing, among others, recognize the importance of hormones, and the differences that will naturally present between men and women.  Hormone levels can protect health or precipitate disease.  Hormones matter.


Phyllis E. Greenberger, MSW, is the president and CEO of the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR), a Washington, D.C., based non-profit organization working to improve the health of all women through research, education and advocacy. Ms. Greenberger is one of the twenty most influential women in medicine today, according to The Medical Herald. Greenberger is the recipient of numerous awards and serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for Women Heart; is a board member of the Interstitial Cystitis Association; resides on the Editorial Board for Shape magazine; serves on the Women’s Task Force for the National Hemophilia Foundation; and is a member of the International Women’s Forum and the National Association of Professional Women. Ms. Greenberger received a B.A. from Syracuse University and an M.S.W. from the Catholic University of America.

1 Comment

  1. I would like to try this treatment .I have moderant tbi ,I have neuropathy in feet to knees, and hands to elbow,also a movement disorder.

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