Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggest in new study recently published in Science that the FDA-approved drug, pirfenidone, could help men live longer and healthier lives. The drug is already being used to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a type of lung scarring, and works by preventing the action of a specific natural substance in the body that is involved in causing fibrosis. Pirfenidone is also currently being tested to treat chronic kidney disease and heart failure, two conditions that are known for tissue scarring. This same study also discusses how the loss of the male sex Y chromosome as most men age causes scarring on the heart muscle that could lead to fatal heart failure. This study may help explain why men don’t live as long as women, often by several years, and recommends pirfenidone that targets dangerous tissue scarring due to the Y chromosome loss, which is estimated to include 40% of 70-year-olds.
"Particularly past age 60, men die more rapidly than women. It's as if they biologically age more quickly," said Dr. Kenneth Walsh, the director of UVA's Hematovascular Biology Center, and a co-author on the study. "There are more than 160 million males in the United States alone. The years of life lost due to the survival disadvantage of maleness is staggering. This new research provides clues as to why men have shorter lifespans than women."
As men age, they begin to lose their Y chromosome in a fraction of their cells. This is specifically true for smokers, and the loss of the Y chromosome largely occurs in blood cells. While earlier studies have shown the Y chromosome loss leads to an early death and age-related maladies such as Alzheimer’s, this new study is believed to be the first hard proof that the loss of the Y chromosome directly leads to harmful impacts on men’s health.
While it is currently difficult for doctors to figure out which men suffer Y chromosome loss, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test has been developed by Dr. Walsh’s colleague, Dr. Lars A. Forsberg of Uppsala University in Sweden. This PCR test, which is similar to ones used for Covid-19 testing, is able to detect Y chromosome loss, but is currently only available to the two respective scientist’s labs, but Dr. Walsh hopes this will change in the future.
"If interest in this continues and it's shown to have utility in terms of being prognostic for men's disease and can lead to personalized therapy, maybe this becomes a routine diagnostic test," Walsh said.
As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!