Women have better immune systems than men

May 12th, 2009 - 1:16 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 12 (ANI): The whole world must be going gaga over the equality of sexes, but when it comes immunity, women seem to have an upper hand, according to a study.

The study by Dr. Maya Saleh, of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and McGill University, has shown that women have more powerful immune systems than men.

They revealed that the natural production of oestrogen by females could have a beneficial effect on the innate inflammatory response against bacterial pathogens.

More specifically, oestrogen in women seems to block the production of an enzyme called Caspase-12, which itself blocks the inflammatory process.

Thus, the presence of oestrogen may have a beneficial effect on innate immunity, which represents the body’s first line of defence against pathogenic organisms.

“These results demonstrate that women have a more powerful inflammatory response than men,” said Saleh.

The researchers conducted the study on mice that lack the Caspase-12 gene, which implies that the mice were extremely resistant to infection.

The human Caspase-12 gene was implanted in a group of male and female mice, yet only the males became more prone to infection.

“We were very surprised by these results, and we determined that the estrogen produced by the female mice blocked the expression of the human Caspase-12 gene. We were also able to locate where the estrogen receptor binds on the gene in order to block its expression, which indicates that the hormone exerts direct action in this case,” said Saleh.

And as the experiments were conducted using a human gene, the researchers think that the results could be applicable to humans as well.

They said that the above feature of the female innate immune system might have evolved to better protect women’s reproductive role.

The positive effect of natural oestrogen on our resistance to infection is also exhibited with synthetic hormones such as 17-beta-estradiol.

Thus, the finding could open the door to new therapeutic applications that reinforce the immune system.

The results have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)

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