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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Oxytocin may have a therapeutical potential against cardiovascular disease. Possible pharmaceutical and behavioral approaches

Buemann, Benjamin; Uvnas-Moberg, Kerstin


Based on the ancient role of oxytocin and its homologues as amplifiers of reproduction we argue for an evolutionary coupling of oxytocin to signaling pathway which support restorative mechanisms of cells and tissue. In particular, the survival and function of different categories of stem cells and primordial cells are enhanced by mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways. Furthermore, oxytocin stimulates the AMP-activated protein kinase pathway (AMPK) in numerous of cell types which promotes the maintenance of different cell structures. This involves autophagic processes and, in particular, may support the renewal of mitochondria. Mitochondrial fitness may protect against oxidative and inflammatory stress - a well-documented effect of oxytocin. The combined specific trophic and protective effects oxytocin may delay several degenerative phenomena including sarcopenia, type-2 diabetes and atherosclerosis. These effects may be exerted both on a central level supporting the function and integrity of the hypothalamus and peripherally acting directly on blood vessels, pancreas, heart, skeletal muscles and adipose tissue etc. Furthermore, in the capacity of being both a hormone and neuromodulator, oxytocin interacts with numerous of regulatory mechanisms particularly the autonomic nervous system and HPA-axis which may reduce blood pressure and affect the immune function. The potential of the oxytocin system as a behavioral and molecular target for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease is discussed. Focus is put on the affiliative and sexual significance and the different options and limitations associated with a pharmaceutical approach.


Aging; Atherosclerosis; Heart; Hypothalamus; Inflammation; Love; Orgasm; Oxytocin

Published in

Medical Hypotheses
2020, Volume: 138, article number: 109597

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG3 Good health and well-being

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Cell and Molecular Biology

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