Magazine article USA TODAY

Menopausal Women Feel the Heat

Magazine article USA TODAY

Menopausal Women Feel the Heat

Article excerpt

Hot flushes are not "in the head," but research from the University of Arizona, Tucson, suggests they might start there. There is a region in the brain that may trigger the uncomfortable surges of heat most women experience in the first few years of menopause. Hot flushes--also called hot flashes--affect millions of people, and not just women. Yet, it remains unclear what causes the episodes of temperature discomfort, often accompanied by profuse sweating.

A team of researchers around Naomi Rance, professor in the Department of Pathology, has come closer to understanding the mechanism of hot flushes, a necessary step for potential treatment options down the road.

The team identified a group of brain ceils known as KNDy neurons as a likely control switch of hot flushes. KNDy neurons (pronounced "candy") are located in the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain controlling vital functions that also serves as the switchboard between the central nervous system and hormone signals.

"Although the KNDy neurons are a very small population of cells, our research reveals that they play extremely important roles in how the body controls its energy resources reproduction, and temperature," says Melinda Mittelman-Smith, who led the study as part of her doctoral thesis. "They are true multitaskers."

The research team created a model of menopause to elucidate the biological mechanisms of temperature control in response to withdrawal of the hormone estrogen, the main trigger of the changes that go along with menopause. …

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