Hormone Hangover

Medication to prevent prematurity in humans harms cognitive flexibility in rats.

Jyoti Madhusoodanan
Jan 31, 2016

NETWORKING: Newborn rats treated with a gestation-lengthening hormone had more dopamine-reactive neurons.CHRISTINE WAGNER AND JARI WILLIN

EDITOR'S CHOICE IN DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY

The paper
J. Willing, C.K. Wagner, “Exposure to the synthetic progestin, 17α-hydroxyprogesterone caproate, during development impairs cognitive flexibility in adulthood,” Endocrinology, doi:10.1210/en.2015-1775, 2015.

Preventing prematurity
Expectant moms at risk of premature delivery may receive a steroid hormone boost in the form of a synthetic progesterone, 17α-hydroxy-progesterone caproate (17-OHPC), which lengthens gestation. The developing brain is sensitive to steroid hormones, but few studies have looked at whether these drugs affect cognition. So Jari Willing and Christine Wagner of the University at Albany-SUNY exposed newborn rats to 17-OHPC to model a human fetal phase when cognitive flexibility develops.

Doping rats
The team injected rats with 17-OHPC or a control solution for 14 days after birth. Some animals were raised to young adulthood and given a behavioral task to assess...