03 February 2018

They've Finally Found a Use for Testosterone

It appears that, in addition to increasing the size of paychecks, testosterone offers protection from autoimmune disease:
Testosterone. Source of prostates and testes, muscles and machismo, chest hair, and according to some, even math skills. Its levels are only one of the biological differences between males and females, but they may help to explain another: the discrepancies in the incidence of autoimmune diseases.

Women are three to nine times more likely than men to suffer from autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), Grave’s disease, celiac disease, systemic lupus erythematous, and rheumatoid arthritis. Not only do women get these diseases at higher rates, they usually get them at younger ages.

Men’s higher testosterone levels—about seven to eight times higher than women’s—have been shown to be protective for MS in both mice and men. But it was not clear exactly how this worked. Recent work in a mouse model of MS has filled in the downstream effectors that mediate testosterone’s protective effects. These effectors might be useful as therapeutics, whereas testosterone use really isn’t, especially for women, who are the ones who need it most.

The work focused on a type of immune cell called a mast cell. Mast cells get a bad rap because they release histamine during allergic reactions, but they're generally involved in inflammation. In the mice that recapitulate MS, testosterone influences the behavior of mast cells in the lymph nodes, central nervous system, and lining of the brain. In female mice, which don’t have as much testosterone, mast cells instead produce pro-inflammatory signaling molecules called cytokines.
The more you know.


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