Testosterone Discovery Leads Researchers to a Possible Key to Curing Asthma

Asthma Inhaler
Getty Images / Staff

Being full of testosterone is not only good for building muscles and making you strong, it also protects men from getting asthma, says a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. Women are about two times more likely to develop asthma than guys, and, until this new Australian research, nobody was quite sure why.

Turns out that T is responsible for making sure a certain immune cell that activates allergic asthma is not activated. The study was prompted by an event in Melbourne, Australia, that was called a “thunderstorm asthma” attack. Believed to have been triggered by an over-abundance in the city’s grass pollen in 2016, the event saw almost 10,000 people visit the hospital with allergic asthma symptoms over a two-day span, with many of the patients never before experiencing asthma.

For the study, researchers probed the immune systems of mice and found that innate lymphoid cells, also called ILC2s, which are thought to trigger asthma symptoms, stopped production when introduced to testosterone. “Testosterone directly acts on ILC2s by inhibiting their proliferation,” said study co-author Cyril Seillet, Ph.D., from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne. “So in males, you have less ILC2s in the lungs, and this directly correlates with the reduced severity of asthma.”

Figuring out that testosterone can affect allergic asthma in this way may lead to a potential new way of treating asthma. The researchers note that the finding means that future therapies may involve imitating this hormonal regulation of the immune cells to treat or prevent asthma. Other diseases, like breast cancer, have already been treated with similar hormonal targeting tactics.

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