Sex hormone protects women from cardio risks

August 12th, 2011 - 3:59 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 12 (IANS) Sex hormone oestrogen could help women stave off heart disease by regulating the activity of white blood cells (WBCs) — sentinels of the immune system.

The female sex hormone stops WBCs from sticking to the insides of blood vessels and averts dangerous blockages, according to a new study by Queen Mary, University of London.

The results show why cardio diseases are likely to be higher in men and why they peak in women post-menopause. WBCs tackle infections by sticking to blood vessel walls.

But if this happens excessively, it can damage blood vessels, bringing on cardiovascular disease, the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology reports.

“Our results suggest that oestrogen helps maintain the delicate balance between fighting infections and protecting arteries from damage that can lead to cardiovascular disease,” said Suchita Nadkarni from the William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary, who led the research.

Cells from premenopausal women had higher concentrations of protein annexin-A1 on the cell surface than that of men after their WBCs were compared.

The protein’s placement on cell surfaces prevents them from sticking to the blood vessel wall, according to a statement.

Annexin-A1 and oestrogen levels were found to be strongly linked throughout the menstrual cycle. Oestrogen moves annexin-A1 from inside the WBC, where it is normally stored to their surface, the research shows.

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