Control of Genes Could Explain Why Females Suffer Worse Virus Infection

A university study could explain why females may suffer worse outcomes of virus infection such as Covid-19. Researchers from the University of Dundee’s School of Life Sciences found the control of genes on X chromosomes in females can cause much wider effects on cells than previously realised.

The X chromosome – of which females have two and men have only one – contains more than 1,000 genes that are vital for cell development. However, a double dose of such gene products can be lethal, meaning one of the two chromosomes in female cells shuts down in a process known as X chromosome inactivation (XCI).

The team found that issues with the XCI process in female cells can cause major changes in protein levels. Proteins are the main targets of almost every drug and differences in the levels of a cell are frequently responsible for many different types of disease, including cancer.

Alejandro Brenes, an analytics developer at the university school, said: “This study has revealed major consequences for the female cells if the XCI mechanism is defective. “By analyzing a collection of human stem cells from both healthy male and female donors, we found that a defective XCI increased the levels of thousands of proteins from all chromosomes, many of which are known markers of disease.

“The data can help to explain why some people may be more likely to develop specific types of disease, suffer worse outcomes of virus infection, such as Covid-19, or vary in how they respond to treatments and therapy. “The results could also be important for the safe development of stem cell therapies.

COVID-19, has been said to affect men and women differently, with men thought to be more likely to become severely ill and die from the disease.To find out more about sex differences in COVID-19, we spoke to Professor Sabra Klein, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

According to data from around the world, including preliminary data from the UK, an equal number of males and females contract the disease, but do we see the same symptoms?Where we are seeing real differences, in terms of larger magnitude of a male-female difference is in severity of disease.

When the virus enters our body, it needs to enter our cells in order to replicate. Successfully making it into the cell, the virus tries to replicate itself. Estrogen in women is thought to make this harder, meaning that the virus can’t make as many copies of itself in women.

Once the immune system realizes the virus has infiltrated its cells, it launches an attack to try and clear out the infection from its cells.

Generally speaking, women tend to mount more robust immune responses that can be beneficial for initially recognizing and initiating the clearance of a virus. So that can be beneficial. Where it can be detrimental is if long-term responses are not properly regulated, so you can get excessive immune responses that can contribute to long-term inflammation and that in and of itself can cause some tissue damage.

In addition to these sex differences in physiology, there are also important behavioral differences. Men are less likely to go to hospital until later in their disease. However, as healthcare workers are often women, we may still see a shift away from the male bias of the disease as the pandemic progresses.

“It also highlights the importance of sex-specific studies, as there are still many uncharacterized differences between females and males that need to be better understood in order to advance precision medicine.” The study, Erosion of human X chromosome inactivation causes major remodeling of the iPSC proteome, is published in Cell Reports and can be found online.

By: Douglas Barrie

Source: Control of genes could explain why females suffer worse virus infection – study

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Therapy for Pregnant Women With Anxiety Offers Alternative to Medication – Andrea Petersen

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“It was something to look forward to,” Ms. Bakker said, while her youngest child, five-month-old Winston, sat on her lap and clutched a fuzzy toy chick. The group is part of Dr. Green and her colleagues’ treatment program for perinatal anxiety at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. It is one of a small but growing number of psychological therapy programs that are specifically designed for pregnant and postpartum women who struggle with anxiety and depression. They address a critical need. While scientific studies have generally found that antidepressant medications are safe to use during pregnancy and breast-feeding, there are still some concerns about their impact on babies……………

Read more: https://www.wsj.com/articles/therapy-for-pregnant-women-with-anxiety-offers-alternative-to-medication-1541257200

 

 

 

 

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Why Every Woman Should Get Her Hormones Checked in Her 20s – Lauren Valenti

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Hormones are like music played in a beautiful but sometimes discordant symphony, explains New York City–based holistic ob-gyn Eden Fromberg, D.O., likening the different glands in the endocrine system that produce distinct hormones to an array of musicians that create unique sounds in an orchestra, with each having to listen to the other so to play in progression. “When hormones play too loud or soft, too fast or slow, and don’t coordinate with the others, the sound produced may be jarring to the system………

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Could a Pill Help Detect Breast Cancer – Emily Matchar

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Women eventually face the yearly ritual of the mammogram, usually suggested from age 50 onwards. It’s not painful, though notoriously uncomfortable, as two plates flatten the breasts, pancake-like, to get the best possible picture. The radiologist then looks at x-ray images for opaque spots that can indicate tumors.

Mammography has been used since the late 1960s and is considered the gold standard for breast cancer detection. But it’s far from perfect. The method misses about 1 in 5 cancers, and about half of women screened annually for 10 years will have a false positive result, often resulting in anxiety and unnecessary biopsies. Mammograms are also unable to distinguish slow-growing cancers from aggressive ones, which is necessary when choosing a course of treatment.

But researchers at the University of Michigan are working on a new method of breast cancer detection they hope could complement—perhaps one day even replace—the mammogram. It’s a pill—patients swallow it and it makes tumors light up when exposed to infrared light. The pill could not only detect tumors, it could also potentially distinguish how aggressive they are.

“From decades of research into cancer, we know it’s really a molecular disease,” says Greg Thurber, a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering who led the research, recently published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics. “But the screening technology just looks at anatomy.”

Thurber’s team developed a pill filled with dye that “tags” a molecule common in tumors and the surrounding tissue. Once the pill has been ingested, researchers can use infrared light to penetrate the breast (the exact technology is under development). This both reveals the presence of tumors and gives information on the types of molecules present in these tumors, which can help doctors determine the nature of the cancer.

Taking the dye in pill form is potentially safer than having it injected intravenously, which can occasionally cause allergic reactions. But designing the pill was a challenge. The kind of molecule that can be easily absorbed in pill-form by the digestive tract needs to be small and “greasy,” Thurber says, while molecules that make good imaging agents are larger and bind to water.

To find the right agent, the team used a combination of lab testing and computer modeling. They eventually got lucky when they found that the pharmaceutical company Merck had a cancer drug they’d tested for safety but had proven ineffective in clinical trials. The drug turned out to be perfect for the team’s purposes, as it was capable of passing freely through the bloodstream and binding to tumor molecules. They added a molecule that lights up under infrared light, and tested the resulting combo in mice with breast tumors. Indeed, it made the tumors glow.

Thurber and his team are now focused on developing additional agents to add to the current pill that could tag different types of tumors or different aspects of tumors. This could give doctors additional information about the cancers detected.

“Every person’s tumor is different,” Thurber says. “Even within the same tumor there can be different types of cancer.”

The researchers will then need to do toxicity studies and from there move to larger animal studies. Thurber hopes they can reach the human trial phase in about five years. They’re also hoping to partner with companies to develop the infrared screening tools necessary for human use.

While the pill could theoretically tag any type of cancer, infrared light can only penetrate a short distance into the body. This is fine for breast cancer detection, as breasts can be “squished” thin for imaging, but wouldn’t work for detecting cancer in deeper organs.

image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/12/29/12293189-78b2-44f5-bade-4716d5e78e2a/diagnostic-pill-top-image.jpg

diagnostic-pill-top-image.jpg

After it’s ingested, the pill would deliver fluorescent targeting molecules (dye is shown in red) to any tumors. (Thurber Lab)

The team does hope the approach could work for detecting other diseases besides cancer. Rheumatoid arthritis is one potential target, Thurber says, as it is can be effectively treated in its early stages, but is hard to distinguish from other types of arthritis until it progresses.

Reuven Gordon, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Victoria in Canada who studies the use of light in cancer detection, thinks the research is promising but cautions that it’s early days. Even if a new method of detection is useful, researchers will have to prove that it’s better than the gold standard, and work to make clinicians and patients comfortable with new technology.

“It’s not obvious to me that this is going to be a home run, but it does look promising,” he says. “They have demonstrated something nice from a scientific point of view.”
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