Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook



 

'Man flu' - do women just have stronger immune systems?

03 October 2011

By George Frodsham

Appeared in BioNews 627

Gene differences between men and women could mean that women are better at resisting certain infections and diseases than men, a new study suggests. The second X chromosome in women gives them an immunological advantage over men, possibly giving credence to man's perceived susceptibility to 'man-flu'. The authors of the study said the results could have important implications in the development of drugs and treatments for cancer.

'Statistics show that in humans, as with other mammals, females live longer than males and are more able to fight off shock episodes from sepsis, infection or trauma', said Dr Libert. 'We believe this is due to the X chromosome which in humans contains 10 percent of all micro RNAs [small fragments of RNA] detected so far in the genome. The roles of many remain unknown, but several X chromosome-located strands of microRNA have important functions in immunity and cancer'.

Women have two X chromosomes whereas men have one X and one Y chromosome. The X chromosome, larger and containing more genes than its Y counterpart, houses immunity genes which help in the fight against infections and cancer. However, the function of these genes can be blocked by a process known as gene silencing. Silencing the genes in one of a female's two X chromosomes compensates for the unequal gene expression between the sexes. But the study, led by Dr Claude Libert of Ghent University in Belgium, showed that some female genes can escape the silencing process, leaving women with up to twice as many disease fighting gene products than men. This may enable women to fight off certain illnesses more effectively than men.

'How this unique form of genetic inheritance influences X chromosome linked microRNAs will be a challenge for researchers for years to come, not only from an evolutionary point of view, but also for scientists investigating the causes and cures of disease', Dr Libert said.

However, it is not all good news for women. The study also notes that the advantages in having two X chromosomes are slightly offset by the fact that it increases 'their susceptibility to develop autoimmune disorders later in life', the study authors wrote.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
The Independent | 28 September 2011
 
Daily Mail | 28 September 2011
 
Press Association | 28 September 2011
 
Telegraph | 28 September 2011
 
Metro | 28 September 2011
 
BioEssays | 28 September 2011
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

08 May 2017 - by Helen Robertson 
At least 6500 genes are expressed at different levels in male or female body tissues, finds a new study...
18 May 2015 - by Dr Nicola Davis 
Researchers have discovered a pattern in 11 genes that could make it quick and easy to diagnose sepsis, a serious life-threatening condition...
30 March 2015 - by Dr James Heather 
A report has found that rare mutations in a single gene made one girl genetically susceptible to severe influenza infection...
02 April 2012 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
Differences in the severity of people's flu symptoms may be due to a genetic variant, according to scientists...
27 February 2012 - by Ruth Saunders 
Men may not be on the brink of extinction after all, according to a study on the evolution of the human Y chromosome. Previous research has suggested that the Y sex chromosome, carried only by men, is decaying genetically at such a rate that men would become extinct in five million years' time...

05 September 2011 - by Dr Rosie Gilchrist 
Scientists may have identified the first genetic link to being underweight. A paper published in the journal Nature this week found that people with extra copies of a region of chromosome 16, locus 16p11.2, have a significantly increased risk of being underweight...
30 August 2011 - by Rosemary Paxman 
Over a dozen children with 'boy in bubble' syndrome are alive and well, with functioning immune systems, nine years after undergoing gene therapy to correct their disorder, researchers report....
30 August 2011 - by Dr Zara Mahmoud 
Scientists have suggested there may be a genetic basis behind the way our body reacts to the flu virus, making some of us more vulnerable than others. A study published in PLoS Genetics has tracked the body's response to the H3N2/Wisconsin strain of the flu virus at the genetic level. The researchers injected the virus into 17 volunteers and analysed expression patterns from the time of injection to the onset of full-blown clinical symptoms...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust
Advertise your products and services HERE - click for further details

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation