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Sex determines intensity immune reaction


The immune systems of women and men respond differently. This has been shown in animal research by Utrecht immunologists. It means that caution is recommended when giving women a potential new medicine for cancer.

It has been shown that female mice eliminate the mouse corona virus (family of the SARS virus) more quickly than their male counterparts. They also produce more of a substance called interferon alpha that stimulates the immune system. The effect was found to be even stronger in mice that had had the ‘brake’ – known as the CD200 receptor - of their immune systems deactivated by researchers. Female mice without this receptor respond very strongly to a viral infection.

The above has been demonstrated by research carried out at the Veterinary Faculty of the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht by Professor Linde Meyaard and her colleagues. They analyzed how mice reacted to viral infections. Their results are described in the journal PLoS Pathogens published on May 17, 2012.

Lung damage
A strong immune response is not always a good thing. Meyaard and colleagues show that although female mice eliminate the virus very effectively, they also have problems with the immune response. This was shown when female mice without the receptor were infected with a flu virus. Their immune systems responded so aggressively that lung damage resulted.

Leukemia medicine
The above means that when carrying out their research, immunologists need to take the differences between men and women into account. It also means that a potential new medicine for leukemia may have a number of side effects. Currently a new medicine for leukemia, based on the switching off of the CD2000 receptor, is being tested. On the basis of her results, Meyaard predicts that the use of this medicine in female patients could cause a damaging immune response if they were to become infected with a virus (e.g. a flu virus) during treatment.

21 May 2012