Oral Dehydroepiandrosterone in Physiologic Doses Modulates Immune Function in Postmenopausal Women

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This study tests the hypothesis that dehydroepiandrosterone or its metabolic products are immunomodulatory in postmenopausal women with relative adrenal androgen deficiency.


A prospective, randomized, double-blind, crossover study of 11 subjects with 3-week treatment arms separated by a 2-week washout period was performed. Immunologic evaluation at the beginning and end of the treatment arms consisted of flow cytometry to delineate T-cell populations, in vitro T-cell mitogenic response and cytokine production, and natural killer cell cytotoxicity. Statistical analysis was based on a split-plot design with analysis of variance with repeated measures.


Dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation decreased CD4 sup + (helper) T cells and increased CD8 sup +/CD56 sup + (natural killer) cells. Although T-cell mitogenic and interleukin-6 responses were inhibited, natural killer cell cytotoxicity increased dramatically.


These data provide the first in vivo evidence in human for an immunomodulatory effect of dehydroepiandrosterone. The salutary immune changes could account for clinical and experimental evidence of antioncogenic effects of this steroid. This study provides a strong rationale for further clinical studies on dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation in adrenal androgen--deficient states. (AM J OBSTET GYNECOL 1993;169:1536-9.)

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