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17 December 1999

Hans Dengler Clinical Pharmacology Research Award for Dr. Michael Christ

Dr. Christ's study designed to determine whether and how various forms of hormone replacement therapy affect regulation of cardiac functions—Grant worth DM 16,000 awarded for the first time—Named after Prof. Dr. Hans J. Dengler, a pioneering figure in clinical pharmacology

The first Hans Dengler Clinical Pharmacology Research Grant was awarded today to Dr. Michael Christ. The grant enables Dr. Christ (b. 1964) and his research group at the Mannheim Institute of Clinical Pharmacology of Heidelberg University to go through with the study "Effects of Hormone-Replacement Therapy on Autonomic Regulation and Blood Pressure in Post-Menopausal Women". The study examines the impact of native progesterone and of medroxyprogesterone acetate. The grant brings with it research monies amounting to DM 16,000. Donated by friends and sponsors of the University (notably the Aventis, Knoll and Merck companies) it will initially run for a period of three years. This is the first time it has been awarded.

The grant commemorates the work of Professor Hans J. Dengler (1925-1997) who championed the cause of clinical pharmacology throughout his university career and was highly instrumental in engineering its breakthrough in Germany. The grant named after him is designed to help young scientists make a name for themselves in this discipline and as such is a reminder of Hans Dengler's own rise to prominence in the 1960s.

Dr. Michael Christ's project and its aims

Heart attacks and other disorders of the cardiovascular system are among the most frequent causes of death in both men and women. While cardiovascular risk is distinctly lower among young women than in men of the same age, the likelihood of such disorders increases considerably in older women. This heightened risk is bound up with the reduction in the formation and release of female sex hormones. Results of epidemiological studies appear to indicate that women taking female sex hormones and thus offsetting the slowdown in their natural formation live significantly longer. Extensive research on the mechanisms of oestrogen effects has shown that these hormones have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system at a number of otherwise vulnerable points.

So far, however, the presumed positive effect of this so-called hormone replacement therapy has not been substantiated by any scientific study. Scientists conjecture that although urgently necessary for other reasons the simultaneous administration of medroxyprogesterone, a progestin derived from the native hormone progesterone formed in the corpus luteum, may in fact offset the positive effects of estrogens. Findings from a study by Dr. Christ point in the same direction. The autonomic nervous system of women taking these synthetic progestogens alongside estrogens does appear to be unfavourably affected by them. Data permitting an assessment of the activity of the autonomic nervous system can be gained with relative ease from normal ECG readings. Numerous studies have shown that reliable statements about the prognosis for probands can be made on the basis of the determination of the activity of the autonomic nervous system.

As yet unpublished findings by Dr. Christ and indications in the literature suggest that natural progesterone displays a much more favourable cardiovascular effect profile than the synthetic progestins normally used (norethisteron, levonorgestrel, medrogeston, medoxyprogesterone). Dr. Christ's research project sets out to establish whether and how various forms of hormone replacement therapy affect the autonomic nervous system. A central aim is to identify progestogens that have no negative effects on the autonomic nervous system. The Christ research group anticipates that if they are successful in this the study will contribute significantly to the improvement of post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy.

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Christ
phone: 0621/3833545 or 3834058, fax: 3832024

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

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Updated: 03.02.00





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