Autoimmunity Is From Venus

Why do women have more problems like Sjögren’s syndrome and lupus?

Jeremy Singer-Vine

Nobody knows, but scientists have a few theories. The sex bias in autoimmune diseases, in which the body’s immune system attacks its host, has been known for more than a century. (Women account for roughly three-quarters of all diagnoses.) One of the earliest explanations, and long the most prominent, blamed hormones for pumping up the female immune response. Testosterone tends to suppress the body’s response to infection, while estrogens typically boost it. Since women have a more vigorous response, goes the argument, their immune systems might be more likely to become hyperactive. (Curiously, men don’t seem to be any more susceptible to infection or inflammation than women.) Data to support these claims, however, have been inconclusive.

A more recent explanation involves genetics. While men carry an X and Y chromosome, women carry two X chromosomes. And though most of the second X chromosome is "silenced," or deactivated, some of its genes are spared. As a result, women may express more genes from the X chromosome than men do, and a number of these play a major role in immunity. Some researchers believe this difference might explain at least some of the sex-bias in autoimmune disease.

Another intriguing idea revolves around a phenomenon known as microchimerism, …

Read More>>

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: