The Immune System Works Differently In Men And Women

Latest research on body fat has uncovered two things for us lay folk:

  • Body fat isn’t just fat. It is an organ.
  • Immune system in men and women operates differently.

The new study published in Nature has brought to light that men and women might be prone to different illnesses. Men, for instance, are more vulnerable to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Women, on the other hand, are more prone to autoimmune illnesses like lupus and arthritis.

And here’s why they are.

The Difference Lies In Their Body Fat

There’s more to body fat, than what we think. It isn’t just fat stored in the body, but an organ in itself that plays a crucial role in making hormones and molecules that regulate metabolism. And here are 3 main differences between male and female body fat.

  • Males have almost 4 times as many Regulatory T cells than females. These cells help limit harmful inflammation in the body.
  • Males also have some male-specific immune cells called stromal cells, that females don’t.
  • Male fat has an abundance of pro-inflammatory cytokines, molecules that trigger an immune response.

These findings show that the immune system that operates in men and women is starkly different. And that the male body is more prone to inflammation than the female body, explaining why men have higher rates of obesity and metabolic diseases that are usually associated with inflammation.

Is Gender-Specific Healthcare The Future?

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One of the biggest implications of this study, which has brought to light the differences in the metabolism of men and women, might be the realization that the medication, treatment, and even the approach to healthcare that may work for one sex, may not work for the other.

And personalized healthcare tailored for gender, may soon become the norm, and not just remain a school of thought.

References

Vasanthakumar, A., Chisanga, D., Blume, J. et al. Sex-specific adipose tissue imprinting of regulatory T cells. Nature 579, 581–585 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2040-3