Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why do women have more severe allergic reactions than men?” you ask? Good question. Timely too. (Besides, it beats answering the question: “Why do more Non-‘Native-American’ people care about the Washington Redskins than actual ‘Native Americans’ do”? A better question would be: why do they call them Native Americans when anyone who is born here is a Native American?)
Thank you, dear reader, for keeping an eye on Google News. Sources such as Science 2.0 note that anaphylaxis is defined as “an allergic reaction triggered by food, medication or insect stings and bites.” Immune cells, especially mast cells, put out enzymes that make tissues swell and blood vessels widen. “As a result, skin may flush or develop a rash, and in extreme cases, breathing difficulties, shock or heart attack may occur.”
Science has already proven through numerous previous studies that gals have a tendency to suffer from anaphylaxis more frequently than guys. Up until now, however, no one knew why. As it turns out, a study on allergic reactions was recently published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
When tested on rodents, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) discovered that a type of estrogen called estradiol has been proven to enhance the levels as well as activity of an enzyme that reportedly drives dangerous allergic reactions.
The NIAID scientists also learned that female rodents experienced longer-lasting and more severe anaphylactic reactions than the males. Rather than targeting immune cells, estrogen affects blood vessels, “enhancing the levels and activity of endothelial nitric oxide synthase” or eNOS an enzyme that brings about a number of the symptoms of anaphylaxis.
When the investigative team blocked eNOS activity, the “gender disparity” vanished. Furthermore, giving the female mice estrogen-blocking treatments lowered the severity of their allergic responses to one close to those in the male mice.
The research group did state that even though their project revealed a definite role for estrogen as well as eNOS in stimulating severe anaphylactic reactions in female rodents, they should conduct further studies to concretely determine that the effects are the same in people.
Why do women have more severe allergic reactions than men? Now you know.
(At least, now you know as much as science does.)
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