May 19, 2024 11:13 pm
Women are more frequently affected by autoimmune diseases

In the 21st century, one in five people have an autoimmune disease. These include conditions such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and thyroiditis. In these diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues, leading to tissue destruction due to an inflammatory reaction.

Autoimmune diseases are becoming more prevalent due to advancements in diagnostics and an increase in the average age of the population. Western lifestyles and environmental changes are also believed to contribute to their rise. These diseases typically begin in middle age and affect up to 80 percent of those affected are women. The reason for this gender discrepancy is unknown but research has shown that women’s susceptibility to autoimmune attacks may be linked to mechanisms on the X chromosome.

The X chromosome is silenced by a molecular cover formed by xist-RNA strands that wrap around the DNA and proteins attached to them. Researchers have found that this silencing mechanism may lead to autoimmune attacks in women. Animal studies using male mice showed that disrupting the xist protein strands led to more severe autoimmune responses, producing more autoantibodies and causing more tissue destruction in the presence of an autoimmune disease.

Understanding the role of xist protein strands in autoimmune diseases can lead to early identification through autoantibody testing. Autoantibodies are often present before symptoms of autoimmune diseases become apparent, making them valuable markers for diagnosis. This research highlights the importance of studying autoimmune diseases in both men and women to fully understand the underlying mechanisms at play.

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