Women take 8 out of 10 people that develop autoimmune diseases, and scientists found out that a certain gene expression is making women more susceptible to these chronic diseases.
Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a study aiming to find the answer to why women are more often troubled by these autoimmune diseases like psoriasis which affects the skin; and lupus which inflames joints, organs and tissues.
Johann Gudjonsson, assistant professor of dermatology and lead author, tested biopsy samples of healthy individuals.
"We found some striking differences in gene expression between the women and men," said Yun Liang, research investigator explained.
"Many of those genes had immune function, and overlapped with genetic pathways and risk genes that related to autoimmune diseases,"
Johann Gudjonsson explained: "Our team identified a gene expression difference between the sexes that is associated with susceptibility to autoimmune disease."
Along with that finding, the scientists pinpointed a gene called VGLL3 which encodes proteins and regulates female-biased immune network. The gene is also active in men with autoimmune diseases.
But researchers found no evidence that the gene is regulated by sex hormones.
"We found no evidence of involvement of estrogen or testosterone in the immune differences we observed between women and men," Gudjonsson says.
The study can propel the identification of another regulatory mechanism and that can proceed the research on gender-focused autoimmunity further.
"Learning more about these disease processes in each gender will provide opportunities for therapeutic interventions we did not imagine before, including both prevention and treatment."
The scientists reported their study to Nature Immunology.