Using a new technology that allows the sampling of living T-cells in real time, researchers at Stanford University have found that men and women turn on and off immune system genes differently.
This may help explain the much higher incidence of autoimmune diseases like scleroderma, lupus, and multiple sclerosis among women. It may also help explain why more women than men have ME. (70-80% of ME patients are women.)
Across the 12 healthy volunteers, 7 percent of the genes were switched on in different patterns from person to person. For each person, these patterns persisted over time, like a unique fingerprint. “But the single greatest predictor for genes’ tendency to turn on and off was the sex of the person. In terms of significance,” said Chang, “sex was far more important than all the other things we looked at, perhaps even combined.” When the team measured gene activity levels from 30 of the top 500 genes the researchers expected would show gender-influenced activity, they found that 20 of the 30 genes showed significant differential activity between men and women.