Women better at fighting disease

Estrogen seems to help stave off infection

Women may have an advantage in fighting off illness over men, a new study from McGill University suggests: the female hormone estrogen seems to counter an enzyme that blocks the inflammatory process, which is the body’s first line of defense. The research team looked at an enzyme called Caspase-12, which slows inflammation. After implanting the human Caspase-12 gene into mice that lacked it, they found the males were more prone to infection. Estrogen produced by female mice blocked the expression of the gene, they concluded. “These results demonstrate that women have a more powerful inflammatory response than men,” lead researcher Dr. Maya Saleh told the BBC, adding that it could be the case because of women’s role in producing and nurturing children. This could provide ways to reinforce the immune system through genetic manipulation, although researchers wonder, “Will men be amenable to the idea of being treated with an exclusively female hormone?”


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