March 11, 2020
There are many differences between male and females, including their susceptibility to different diseases. Research has shown that males are more prone metabolic diseases and associated conditions such as obesity and high blood sugar. Women on the other hand are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis. These differences indicate the immune systems of the two sexes are not the same.
A collaborative team of scientists from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, and the University of Melbourne have been working together to gain a better understanding of these differences. Fat, or adipose tissue, plays a role in regulating metabolism and producing hormones, so the researchers looked closely at the different cell types found within it and compared males and females.
They discovered that the immune system within the adipose of male and female mice was different. Male fat contains roughly four times as many white blood cells called Regulatory T cells than female fat. It is these cells that help manage harmful inflammation caused by infection. They also discovered males had more pro-inflammatory cytokines, which trigger inflammation and an immune response. Together, these findings indicate that male body fat is more predisposed to inflammation than that of females, which could explain why males are more inclined to conditions that have been linked with inflammation, such as obesity and metabolic diseases. If these findings are confirmed in humans, it will mean that it is crucial to re-evaluate the under-representation of females in medical research.
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