JUN 06, 2018 01:34 PM PDT

Why are women more prone to autoimmunity than men?

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

For a long time scientists have been trying to understand why females are more likely than males to develop autoimmune diseases. From the University of Gothenburg, scientists investigate the disproportionate prevalence of autoimmune disease and offer a new, hormone-related theory for female vulnerability.

"It's very important to understand what causes these diseases to be so much more common among women," explained study author Asa Tivesten. This is especially true in the case of lupus, where 90 percent of those affected are women. "In this way, we can eventually provide better treatment for the diseases."

The new study operates under the theory that testosterone provides protection against autoimmune disease. Women have just ten percent of the testosterone that men do, implying that they likely do not receive the same protective effects.

A recent University of Turku study found that estrogen also plays a role in women being more prone to autoimmunity. As opposed to testosterone, women produce a lot more estrogen than men do. Researchers found that estrogen receptor proteins cause dysfunction in regulatory T cell activity. These are cells that maintain the balance between too much inflammation and too little inflammation, and they are often implicated in autoimmune disease pathology.

In the new study, researchers observed testosterone reducing the number of B cells, which produce antibodies. B cells and antibodies are part of the adaptive immune system where, along with T cells, they produce a specific response to bacterial or viral infections. Antibodies are useful during an immune attack on invading pathogens, but when B cells produce antibodies that attack the body’s own cells - called autoantibodies - autoimmune diseases can develop.

Researchers looked specifically at the relationship between testosterone and B cell production in the spleen, taking and analyzing blood samples from 128 men. They found that testosterone suppress activity of a protein called BAFF, which promotes B cell viability.

Similarly, past research has showed that genetic variations in BAFF increase the risk of autoimmune diseases. This includes lupus, which is treated in part with BAFF inhibitors.

“If you eliminate testosterone, you get more BAFF and thereby more B cells in the spleen because they survive to a greater extent,” Tivesten explained. “Recognition of the link between testosterone and BAFF is completely new. No one has reported this in the past.”

The present study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: University of Gothenburg

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
MAY 10, 2018
Immunology
MAY 10, 2018
New Biomarker for Lung Cancer Diagnosis
Lung cancer is the most common cause of death from cancer for both genders and for people all over the globe. This is largely due to the lack of diagnostic...
MAY 14, 2018
Immunology
MAY 14, 2018
The Immune System's Antibodies Target Multiple Microbes
For the first time, scientists found that antibodies produced by the immune system can target multiple microbes, as opposed to just one type of microbe. Fr...
MAY 16, 2018
Immunology
MAY 16, 2018
Antibodies Neutralize Two Different Hemorrhagic Fever Viruses
Scientists have found evidence for potential antibody-based therapeutics to treat more than one hemorrhagic fever virus at once. From Harvard Medical Schoo...
JUL 04, 2018
Drug Discovery
JUL 04, 2018
Increased Dose of Drug 'Rifampin' Effective in Eliminating Tuberculosis Bacterium
According to a randomized controlled trial, a TB drug by the name ‘Rifampin’ was seen to effectively kill TB bacteria in sputum cultures when a...
JUL 24, 2018
Videos
JUL 24, 2018
Measles are on the Move
Measles is a highly contagious disease that used to be common in young children. Due to the development of vaccines, however, it’s been almost eradic...
AUG 18, 2018
Immunology
AUG 18, 2018
Two Proteins Play Unexpected Role in Immune System Regulators
Two proteins, PLD3 and PLD4, discovered to have role in immune system detection and response to pathogens....
Loading Comments...