New research suggests testosterone may explain the decreased incidence of asthma in adult men. “Females are two times more likely to develop asthma than males after puberty” and females experience more severe asthma, ScienceDaily reported, but a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine sheds light on this unexplained phenomenon. The Australian and French research team was excited to share its result that “testosterone protects males against developing asthma.”
Key to the team’s findings were innate lymphoid cells — specifically, the ILC2s — “a newly-described immune cell that has been associated with the initiation of asthma.” ILC2s work in the body to fight infectious microorganisms and regulate inflammation. Unfortunately, these hard working cells turn against us when triggered by irritants such as pollen or dust mites. This causes them to produce inflammatory proteins. Everyone has ILC2s, but “testosterone directly acts on ILC2s by inhibiting their proliferation.” Post-pubescent men, with their higher testosterone levels, therefore have fewer ILC2s in their lungs, reducing the prevalence and severity of asthma in that demographic.
As important as it is to add to our collective knowledge regarding asthma, the result of this research has direct implications on asthma treatment going forward. One of the researchers noted, “Current treatments for severe asthma, such as steroids, are very broad based and can have significant side effects,” but with this new discovery, treatments can now target asthma-causing cells much more directly and efficiently. While it will still be many years before these proposed new treatments hit pharmacies near you, especially considering this latest discovery was only in mice and human research has yet to commence, this discovery is a great step towards the complete prevention of asthma.
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