University to study whether puberty blockers cause ‘lasting’ brain changes for kids

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) approved a $600,000 grant for a study hypothesizing that puberty blockers used on children will lead to “lasting…

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) approved a $600,000 grant for a study hypothesizing that puberty blockers used on children will lead to “lasting changes” in the brain, according to documents obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

In 2018, an American Academy of Pediatrics committee, which included a member of UW’s faculty, released a policy on transgender hormone treatments claiming that the effects of puberty blockers are reversible, a claim that has since been widely echoed by trans advocates. The university’s gender clinic already offers hormones to minors, but new documents obtained by the DCNF reveal that the study, which was approved for a $600,000 grant in July, hypothesizes that “short-term” transgender treatments will have “lasting changes” on the brain, internal organs and behavior. 

The study was proposed in April to learn more about the effects of cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers on prepubescent rats to “address healthcare challenges” for minors receiving transgender hormone therapy. The study is being conducted by Dr. Walid Farhat, a professor of Urology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Anthony Auger, a professor of Psychology at UW, and Dr. Joan Jorgenson, a professor of Comparative Biosciences.

The researchers explain in a slideshow presented to the WPP that they want to see how “leuprolide,” which is used as a puberty-blocking medication, affects “pubescent rats,” according to the documents. Leuprolide, also known as Lupron, has been used to castrate sex offenders and treat patients with breast and prostate cancer, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Children are often able to get puberty blockers around 10 or 11 years old, with parental consent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The slideshow argues that the researchers expect to see “decreasing adolescent anxiety” and potential changes in “biomarkers associated with mental health risk, fertility, bone and kidney health.” Prior to the study’s approval, Farhat admitted that the research on potential side effects of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones was “severely lacking,” but argued that the procedures were “relatively safe” and condemned any attempt to limit access to them for children.

Farhat helped bring together UW’s Pediatric and Adolescent Transgender Health (PATH) clinic and the Variations of Sex Characteristics clinics in December 2020 to “support transgender, nonbinary, and gender diverse youth,” according to an announcement. One of the heads of the PATH clinic is Dr. Brittany Allen, an associate UW professor in the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, who is named as a defendant in a lawsuit against the American Academy of Pediatrics over its policy on puberty blockers.

The lawsuit, first reported by the Daily Wire in October, named Allen as one of the members of the “LGBT Health & Wellness” committee that created the policy, which was initially released in 2018 and reaffirmed again in August 2023. It claims that the effects of puberty blockers, such as leuprolide, are “reversible” and that some effects of cross-hormone therapy are reversible as well.

“Gonadotrophin-releasing hormones (GnRH) have been used to delay puberty since the 1980s for central precocious puberty,” the policy reads. “These reversible treatments can also be used in adolescents who experience gender dysphoria to prevent development of secondary sex characteristics and provide time up until 16 years of age for the individual and the family to explore gender identity, access psychosocial supports, develop coping skills, and further define appropriate treatment goals. If pubertal suppression treatment is suspended, then endogenous puberty will resume.”

The researchers’ hypotheses, however, claim that they believe the study will reveal “lasting effects on the brain, behavior and peripheral physiology” from “short-term leuprolide treatment” and “that pubertal leuprolide treatment followed with CSHT (cross-sex hormone treatment)/GAHs (gender-affirming hormones) will result in sex-affirming brain and peripheral organ development and behavior.”

The DCNF also obtained copies of confidential reviews by UW faculty of the study before it was approved. One individual praised the proposal as a “highly innovative project” that would further support existing research from 2022 showing that GnRH, like leuprolide, “modifies cognitive function in later life.”

If the initial study goes well, the researchers plan to conduct a longer study with the National Institutes of Health that will cover the effects of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones from “each life stage into old age,” according to the documents.

Farhat, Auger, Jorgenson and the WPP did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.