The process of aging deeply influences morphological and functional parameters of peripheral nerves. The observations summarized here indicate that the deterioration of myelin occurring in the peripheral nerves during aging may be explained by the fall of the levels of the major peripheral myelin proteins [e.g., glycoprotein Po (Po) and peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22)]. Neuroactive steroids, such as progesterone (PROG), dihydroprogesterone (5α-DH PROG), and tetrahydroprogesterone (3α,5α-TH PROG), are able to stimulate the low expression of these two myelin proteins present in the sciatic nerve of aged male rats. Since Po and PMP22 play an important physiological role in the maintenance of the multilamellar structure of PNS myelin, we have evaluated the effect of PROG and its neuroactive derivatives, 5α-DH PROG and 3α,5α-TH PROG, on the morphological alterations of myelinated fibers in the sciatic nerve of 22-24-month-old male rats. Data obtained clearly indicate that neuroactive steroids are able to reduce aging-associated morphological abnormalities of myelin and aging-associated myelin fiber loss in the sciatic nerve.
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