Testosterone Triggers Protein That Protects Against Multiple Sclerosis

A so-called “guardian molecule” that is induced by testosterone was found to reverse an immune response in female mice models of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study published by the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.
Women have been shown to be much more likely to develop MS compared with men due to testosterone; however, specifically how the hormone protected against the condition was unknown, the researchers noted.
In the study, the authors discovered that the testosterone-induced molecule protected mice against MS. When female mice with MS were treated with the molecule, the symptoms were eliminated, which suggests a potential new treatment approach, according to the authors.
“This suggests a mechanism for the reduced incidence of multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases in males compared to females,” said lead study author Melissa Brown, PhD. “These findings could lead to an entirely new kind of therapy for MS, which we greatly need.”
Women are up to 4 times more likely to develop MS compared with men. The findings of this study suggest that women may also be able to benefit from testosterone’s protective effects.
“This is why it’s vital to study sex differences in research,” Dr Brown said.
The researchers discovered that testosterone causes mast cells to produce cytokine IL-33 in male mice, which then triggers a cascade of chemicals that inhibit Th17 immune cells from attacking the myelin, according to the study.
In mice models, females produced more of the Th17 cells compared with males, which is similar to humans. This finding was significant because immune cells destroy myelin and contribute to disease progression.
However, the damage was reversed among females treated with IL-33, according to the study.
“Because testosterone levels are seven-to-eight times lower in adult women compared to men, we speculate there are insufficient levels in females to activate this protective pathway,” Dr Brown said. “But we showed we can activate the pathway with the guardian molecule, IL-33.”
In addition to sex disparities that are associated with disease risk, gender also seems to play a role in the age of onset and subtype of MS. Women typically develop MS at a younger age and are diagnosed with relapsing-remitting disease, while men typically develop the condition later in life and generally do not improve. The authors noted that later development of MS in men correlates with a reduction in testosterone production.
The study noted there are a handful of clinical trials including men with MS that have demonstrated testosterone therapy can partially reverse myelin damage, thus alleviating symptoms. Currently, testosterone therapy is not viable due to undesirable adverse events, according to the authors.
“Our findings have identified new and more specific cellular and molecular targets for immune intervention that we hope will lead to better therapies that leave most of the immune system intact,” Dr Brown said. “This testosterone-driven protective pathway should also be studied in other female-biased autoimmune diseases.”

Stay up to date on the latest news in specialty pharmacy by getting Specialty Pharmacy Times in your mailbox or inbox for free!

Click here to sign up for free for the bi-monthly Specialty Pharmacy Times print journal delivered to your address.

Click here to sign up for our email newsletters delivered every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, in addition to breaking news alerts.

Click here to follow us on Facebook. 

Click here to follow us on Twitter. 

Click here to join our LinkedIn group. 

Related Articles

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.
Investigators aim to develop cellular models to mimic the biological processes responsible for the onset of multiple sclerosis.
Obesity may increase severity of disability in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
Company Profile >
Industry Guide >
Market News >
Peer Exchange >
Conferences >
Subscribe >
Specialty Times Resources
About Us
Contact Us
Terms & Conditions
MJH Associates >
Pharmacy Times
American Journal of Managed Care
MD Magazine
Targeted Oncology
Physicians' Education Resource
Pharmacy & Healthcare Communications, LLC
2 Clarke Drive
Suite 100
Cranbury, NJ 08512
P: 609-716-7777
F: 609-716-4747

Copyright Specialty Pharmacy Times 2006-2019
Pharmacy & Healthcare Communications, LLC. All Rights Reserved.