A common breathing problem, asthma affects a large number of women across the globe. Research studies point to the fact that women are more susceptible to asthma as compared to men. According to a study done by Physiopathology Centre of Toulouse-Purpan in France, the absence of testosterone in women is to be blamed for it. Women have double the chances of asthma than men, especially post-puberty. This is because the primary male sex hormone suppresses the production of a type of immune cell that triggers allergic asthma and acts as a barrier against males developing the inflammatory airway condition.
“Our research shows that high levels of testosterone in males protect them against the development of allergic asthma,” said Cyril Seillet, lead author. “We identified that testosterone is a potent inhibitor of innate lymphoid cells, a newly-described immune cell that has been associated with the initiation of asthma,” he added.
“Testosterone directly acts on ILC2s (which are innate lymphoid cells) by inhibiting their proliferation. So in males, you have less ILC2s in the lungs and this directly correlates with the reduced severity of asthma,” said Seillet in a report published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
ILC2s are found in the lungs, skin and other organs. These cells produce inflammatory proteins that can cause lung inflammation and damage in response to common triggers for allergic asthma, such as pollen, dust mites, cigarette smoke and pet hair.
Understanding the mechanism that drives the sex differences in allergic asthma could lead to new treatments for the disease, the researchers said.