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Fairer sex have tougher genes!

When it comes to equality, men may be lagging far behind women in certain matters. Interestingly, the female innate immune system helps protect women's reproductive role.

sex and relationships Updated: May 12, 2009 19:42 IST

When it comes to equality, men may be lagging far behind women in certain matters.

For instance, the latest study by the McGill University Health Centre shows that women have a more powerful immune system than men.

In fact, the production of oestrogen by females could have a beneficial effect on the innate inflammatory response against bacterial pathogens.

More specifically, oestrogen naturally produced in women seems to block the production of an enzyme called Caspase-12, which itself blocks the inflammatory process.

The presence of oestrogen would therefore have a beneficial effect on innate immunity, which represents the body's first line of defence against pathogenic organisms.

"These results demonstrate that women have a more powerful inflammatory response than men," said Maya Saleh, who conducted the study.

The study was based on mice lacking Caspase-12 gene, meaning that the mice were extremely resistant to infection.

The human Caspase-12 gene was implanted in a group of male and female mice, yet only the males became more prone to infection.

"We were very surprised by these results, and we determined that the oestrogen produced by the female mice blocked the expression of the human Caspase-12 gene," explained Saleh, according to a McGill release.

"We were also able to locate where the oestrogen receptor binds on the gene in order to block its expression, which indicates that the hormone exerts direct action in this case."

Since these experiments were conducted using a human gene, the researchers consider these results applicable to humans. This feature of the female innate immune system might have evolved to better protect women's reproductive role.

These results were published in the Monday edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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