Puberty changes the immune system
Women are more prone to autoimmune diseases, men to infections. As American researchers have now discovered, this gender difference is established during puberty and is influenced by sex hormones.
In their study, the scientists led by Kanneboyina Nagaraju and Eric Hoffman from the Children's National Medical Center in Washington used microarrays to examine 12,000 genes from mice of different ages. In female mice during and after puberty, they were able to determine a significantly lower expression of genes that play a role in the innate immune response and thus in the immediate reactions to pathogens compared to males.
On the other hand, these females showed an overexpression of genes that belong to the adaptive immune system and are therefore important for long-term protection, the formation of antibodies and immunoglobins. These gender differences were not observed in animals before puberty, the study found.
One of the reasons for the sex differences appears to be a regulatory mechanism that is influenced by the hormone estrogen, which is more concentrated in females.