Lupus: Are Women At A Disadvantage?

I must admit that prior to being diagnosed with Lupus I was quite oblivious to what the disease was and what having it would mean for me and my family. I also admit that I was completely ignorant to its symptoms, its severity and the individuals affected by it. I didn’t know that men and children could be diagnosed with the disease. I didn’t know it was most prevalent in black women. BUT what I also didn’t know was that the majority of the individuals affected by lupus are women.

Is it genetic? Is it in the female DNA?

Could some female-biased autoimmune diseases arise from incomplete X inactivation?

That’s what Montserrat C. Anguera, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, and her colleagues seem to think.

X inactivation the process by which genes on one of a female’s two X chromosomes are silenced.

“What caught my attention about autoimmunity and specifically lupus,” Anguera says, “was that there were genes on the X chromosome that were immunity-related and that had been shown to have higher expression levels in lupus patients.”

Women are said to be at a disadvantage when it comes to susceptibility to lupus and many other autoimmune conditions. Today, eighty-five percent of lupus patients are women.

Image from http://www.zazzle.com

Anguera and her research team focused their attention on lymphocytes, specifically the T cells and B cells responsible for much of the pathology in lupus. The research not only provides a mechanistic explanation for differences in autoimmune risk, but also for the advantage that females have in fighting off infections.

*Read more about the female bias in autoimmunity.

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