Women are more frequently affected by autoimmune diseases

Unraveling the Silence on X-Chromosome and its Role in Autoimmune Diseases in Women

In the 21st century, more and more people are being diagnosed with autoimmune diseases. One in five individuals has a condition such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, or thyroiditis. These diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues, leading to tissue destruction due to an inflammatory reaction.

Autoimmune diseases are typically seen in middle age and affect up to 80 percent of those affected are women. The reason for this gender discrepancy is still unknown, but research suggests that female hormones may play a role in predisposing women to these conditions. A study led by Stanford University’s Diana Down found 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 discovered 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 help with early identification through autoantibody testing. Autoantibodies are often present before symptoms become apparent and can serve as 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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