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Testosterone may explain why more women have asthma than men

2017-November-29       Source: Xinhuanet.com

Testosterone protects men against developing asthma, helping to explain why women are twice as likely to have the inflammatory airway condition as men, a new study suggested Tuesday.

Testosterone protects men against developing asthma, helping to explain why women are twice as likely to have the inflammatory airway condition as men, a new study suggested Tuesday.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University and Johns Hopkins University found that the male sex hormone hindered an immune cell linked to asthma symptoms, such as inflammation and mucus production in the lungs, said the study in the U.S. journal Cell Reports.

"When we started this study, we really thought that ovarian hormones would increase inflammation, more so than testosterone making it better," said senior author Dawn Newcomb of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "I was surprised to see that testosterone was more important in reducing inflammation."

Prior studies have found that, before puberty, boys have approximately 1.5 times higher rate of asthma than girls. That trend reverses after puberty, when women are twice likely to have asthma as men.

This pattern continues until women hit menopause, and then the asthma rates in women start to decline.

Increased asthma symptoms are regulated by many different factors, including exposure to allergens and viral infections, and the researchers suspected that sex hormones might also be involved.

Newcomb and her colleagues further studied the observed trend in gender differences by focusing on lung cells called Group 2 innate lymphoid cells, or ILC2 cells.

These cells make cytokines, proteins that cause inflammation and mucus production in the lungs, which makes it harder to breathe.

The researchers collected blood from people with and without asthma and found that those with asthma had more ILC2 cells than those without.

Of that group, asthmatic women had more ILC2 cells than asthmatic men.

ILC2 cells are also found in the lungs of mice, but they are rare, making up only about 10,000 of the 10 million cells in a mouse lung.

Similar to the results that they found in humans, Newcomb and colleagues always found that they were getting fewer cells from male mice than female mice.

When the researchers added ovarian hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, to the mouse ILC2 cells, they did not see much of a change or increase in the ability of the cell to make cytokines.

However, when they added testosterone, they saw that the hormone prevented the cells from expanding and reduced the production of cytokines.

While this study focused on testosterone, Newcomb hoped to expand further studies to explore the effects of more sex hormones on asthma.

"Sex hormones are not the only mechanism but, rather, one of many mechanisms that could be regulating airway inflammation," she said. "This is not the only important mechanism in asthma."

Editor: 陈锦霞

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