Research Topic

Double-edge consequence of enhanced immune reactivity in females: Better protection against infection but increased susceptibility to autoimmune diseases

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Functionally, the immune systems of males and females are not equivalent. Rather, “immune system inequality” exists between sexes. In general, the immune system of females tends to have a higher degree of immune responsiveness compared to males. ...

Functionally, the immune systems of males and females are not equivalent. Rather, “immune system inequality” exists between sexes. In general, the immune system of females tends to have a higher degree of immune responsiveness compared to males.
Physiologically, this confers an advantage to females to effectively counter a broad range of infectious agents; respond better to vaccines, sepsis and trauma than their male counterparts. Could this be an additional reason for increased longevity in women compared to men? While physiologically females tend to have a superior immune capacity, the enhanced immune responsiveness in females becomes a disadvantage when they aggressively respond to self-antigens. Therefore, it is not surprising that a majority of autoimmune diseases occur in women, an observation which has been replicated in many animal models of these diseases. While sex difference in immune capabilities and autoimmune diseases is an established fact, the precise reasons underlying these observations are complex. A long held belief has been that sex differences in immunity and autoimmunity are attributable to either sex hormones or sex chromosomes. However, this understanding is turning out to be a simplistic notion. With recent advancements in fields of genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics, the complexities are only now becoming apparent. Recent studies have shown epigenetic regulators such as microRNA, DNA methylation and histone modifications, and interaction between sex chromosome and autosomes can contribute to sexual disparities in immune responses. In addition, other environmental factors such as stress, diet and life style and microbiome have also shown to modulate the disease expression.

This research topic’s theme is aimed at assimilating new findings to comprehensively understand the sex differential immune responsiveness in immunity and autoimmunity.
Women are the major sufferers of autoimmune diseases, while men are more prone to infection and sepsis. It is likely that male and females may have differential responses to immunomodulators and therapies. This aspect is ignored or underestimated while designing drug therapies and clinical trials. Thus a better understanding of basis of sex differences in immune reactivities will eventually help in designing effective genderbased therapies.

This Research Topic will examine the potential for gender-based personalized medicine. Moreover, will address the fundamental basis of sex differential immune capabilities and sex bias in infectious and autoimmune diseases. Specifically, what is the current understanding of the role of:

Sex hormones
Sex Chromosomes and autosomes
Epigenetics
Microbiota
Environmental Chemicals
Pregnancy and exogenous hormones
Diet and Life style


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