Testosterone therapy could have negative effects, UNTHSC researchers report

Rebecca Cunningham, PhD

Testosterone replacement therapy is often prescribed to improve libido and boost energy in men. But for some, the sex hormone can damage brain health, researchers at UNT Health Science Center report.

“Testosterone can be a good and protective hormone in the brain, or it can be bad,” said Rebecca Cunningham, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience at UNT Health Science Center. “Oxidative stress is one variable that can determine whether testosterone protects brains cells or damages them.”

Oxidative stress occurs when there are more free radicals produced in the body than antioxidants, which can lead to cell damage. Oxidative stress is a key component in many brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Free radicals are organic molecules responsible for aging and tissue damage.

“Previous studies have shown that 20 to 28 percent of aging men have no response or a negative response to testosterone therapy,” Dr. Cunningham said. “About the same percentage of Caucasian men in our study also had adverse effects on cognitive dysfunction and inflammation.”

These negative effects were only observed in men with high oxidative stress, said Dr. Cunningham, who will present the research at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in November.

The findings could help physicians determine which patients are most likely to benefit from testosterone replacement therapy using a simple blood test for oxidative stress and testosterone levels, Dr. Cunningham said.

Dr. Sid O’Bryant, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine; Dr. James Hall, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health; Dr. Meharvan Singh, Chairman and Professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience; and Dr. Robert Barber, Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, also participated in the research.

Recent News

Scott Walters
  • Our People
|Dec 7, 2022

Through NIH HEAL Initiative, Dr. Scott Walters and colleagues accelerate fight against the nation’s opioid crisis

Four years ago, the National Institutes of Health introduced the unprecedented HEAL Initiative to address the nation’s public health crisis of opioid misuse, addiction and overdose. More than $2 billion has been invested in 1,000 research projects to date, spanning basic and clinical research ...
Wellest Team
  • On Campus
|Dec 6, 2022

Wellest Inc. founder Dave Sekowski partners with HSC faculty through Techstars program

For Dave Sekowski, founder and CEO of Wellest Inc., the road to wellness has not been easy. Growing up with limited access to healthy food and education about health and nutrition, he struggled with childhood obesity. “I had to take it upon myself to figure it out,” Sekowski said. “I joined...
IHI Banner
  • Patient Care
|Dec 6, 2022

TCOM leadership presents patient safety course to 2022 IHI forum

The Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine’s innovative patient safety course and how to incorporate it into an academic curriculum was on display at the 2022 Institute for Healthcare Improvement Forum in Orlando, Florida.  Frank Filipetto, DO, CPPS, FACOFP, dean of TCOM, and Lillee Gelinas DNP...
Stephanie Ibekwe
  • Our People
|Dec 5, 2022

A voice for women in medicine

When Dr. Stephanie Ibekwe’s mother, Sarah, came home from her nursing job, she would tell her daughter stories about her patients and the conversations she had with them. “Nursing is pretty stressful, but my mom had an amazing way of handling things,” she said. “My mom really loved to bui...