Vol. 10, No. 3, 2004 Page 7

Early aspirin, acetaminophen exposure may alter hormone
effects, adult sexual behavior

Prenatal exposure to aspirin or similar drugs could markedly influence adult sexual behavior, according to a recent study.

Stuart Amateau and Margaret McCarthy exposed male rats immediately before or after birth to aspirin or indomethacin, two drugs that inhibit the production of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). They report, "Without prostaglandins during brain development, male rats do not develop the brain wiring necessary to respond to testosterone as adults."

The rats exposed to aspirin shortly before or after birth exhibited mildly impaired sexual behavior as adults, while those injected with indomethacin shortly after birth were completely asexual when they reached adulthood. In addition, indomethacin-exposed rats had an abnormally small number of neural connections in a region of the brain called the preoptic area, which appears to play a role in sexual behavior.

In contrast, by exposing female mice to PGE2 shortly after birth and then giving them testosterone during adulthood, the researchers could cause the rats to exhibit masculine behavior, such as trying to mate with other females. The brains of these female rats contained a larger-than-typical number of synaptic connections in the preoptic area.

The researchers caution that human sexual behavior is much more complex than that of rats, and say more study is needed to investigate the possible effects of early exposure to PGE2-blocking drugs such as aspirin and acetaminophen on human sexual development.


"University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers find clues to male sexual behavior in the developing brain," news release, University of Maryland, May 23, 2004.

-- and --

"Sexing brains up and down," Bruce Bower, Science News, Vol. 165, May 29, 2004, 340-1.

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