May 2, 2016 — Testosterone may play a role in the development of heart disease, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports by scientists in the UK.
Men have a greater risk of heart disease than women of a similar age, suggesting a possible sex hormone influence.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh studied the effects of testosterone in blood vessel tissue from mice, and compared the results to arteries of humans with heart disease.
After administering testosterone, mouse tissue had more bone-like calcium deposits and calcification, a process in which arteries thicken and harden.
When researchers modified the mouse cells so they could no longer respond to testosterone, the cells produced far less calcium deposits.
Calcification makes the heart work harder to pump blood around the body. It can also affect heart valves, preventing them from opening and shutting properly. It also “powerfully” predicts the risk of death and other major problems due to heart disease, researchers said.
Dr. Vicky MacRae of the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, told the BBC:
“Calcification is particularly difficult to treat, as the biological processes behind the disease are similar to those used by our body to make and repair bone.”
The researchers hope by understanding the problem, they can develop new treatments for heart disease. There is currently no way to prevent calcification.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, cautioned that “Significantly more research is needed to understand whether the results have implications for patients with heart disease or those taking androgen replacement therapy.”
In recent years, several studies have found that testosterone therapy increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death — especially for older men. Testosterone is only FDA-approved for hypogonadism, a relatively rare condition, but products have been aggressively marketed for men with vague symptoms of “Low T.” Today, millions of men who do not have hypogonadism are on testosterone therapy.
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