New research from Australia suggests that men’s higher testosterone levels are the reason fewer males develop allergic asthma in adulthood.
The hope is this new discovery will eventually lead to more effective way to treat or even prevent, a condition which about 300 million worldwide struggle with.
Scientists have long known there’s a very definite gender based pattern when it comes to asthma. Before puberty the problem is actually more common in boys. By their 20s though, girls have closed the gap and after 40 women are twice as likely to suffer.
Until now the reason for this has been a bit of a mystery. Because boys have smaller airways than girls in childhood (something which is later reversed), many believed this oxygen restriction is the reason for the wheezin’.
This latest work from Melbourne gives us something more solid to work with however. The team identified that T is responsible for making sure a particular immune cell which triggers allergic asthma doesn’t activate.
Researchers looked into this issue after the city of Melbourne in Australia experienced what was known as a ‘thunderstorm asthma attack’ in 2016.
Over a 48 hour period, a massive 10,000 people attended hospitals and medical centers with allergic asthma symptoms for the first time. The incident is believed to have been set off by abnormally high levels of grass pollen. The incident allowed statistical comparisons to be made of genders and ages over a short time period, and it was clear that the women had been affected in the ratio of around 2:1.
The study, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne has so far only been carried out on mice. It involves probing the immune system to find that inbuilt lymphoid cells, known as ILC2s, which are thought to trigger asthma symptoms, stopped production when introduced to testosterone
Researchers found that innate lymphoid cells, also called ILC2s stopped production when introduced to testosterone.
Co-author of the work, Cyril Seillet, Ph.D. says of the findings;
All the signs then are that higher testosterone reduces the risk of asthma attacks. But what about keeping T up as a treatment? At least as a natural way to managing it? And what about other variations of the condition not triggered by allergies?
Well, steady on. Links have only been seen in our furry little bros so far and it’s probably too early to say. But we’re definitely not about to say don’t hold your breath, a) because it is highly possible and b) because given what we’re talking about that’s pretty insensitive.
This is just the latest in a long line of life threatening illnesses, the cure for which science is getting down to a T.
T was once demonised as the cause of heart disease, now high natural amounts are considered key to keeping your heart healthy. It also appears to play a vital role in guarding against metabolic diseases like diabetes.
These findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine earlier this month, are exciting but not the finished article.
That said, we’ll absolutely be keeping an eye out for any updates in this area and let you know. Asthma is a debilitating problem and any improved understanding of it, or new treatment methods could improve quality of life for millions.