Androgens deteriorate immune system
Women’s immune systems are more capable of eliminating germs such as Candida albicans than men’s. This is partly because male sex hormones are detrimental to immune system function, biologists at California State Polytechnic University conclude from their experiments on mice. But that’s not the whole story.
The researchers experimented with both male [M] and female mice [F]. Some of their lab animals were intact, others gonadectomized, which means that the researchers removed the organs that produce sex hormones from these animals [X].
The researchers then implanted pellets in some of the mice. Some mice were given pellets that did nothing, other mice were given pellets that released hormones. Some mice were given pellets that released estradiol, other mice were given pellets that released DHT.
After the mice had recovered from the procedures, the researchers injected them with a life-threatening amount of the fungus Candida albicans.
The figure above shows the design of the study. Click on it for a larger version.
There were more intact female mice that survived the Candida injection than male. The researchers had expected this. Female organisms have a better immune system than males.
In both male and female gonadectomized mice, DHT pellets reduced the chance of surviving the infection, the figures below show. DHT thus weakens the immune response. Probably all androgens do…
In female gonadectomized mice, pellets that released the female sex hormone estradiol had no positive or negative effect on survival rates. In male gonadectomized mice, however, estradiol worsened survival rates.
The superior immune response of women has nothing to do with sex hormones, the researchers conclude.
If we extrapolate the results of this study to humans, unimpeded by too much knowledge, they may suggest that users of androgenic steroids reduce their chances of surviving serious infections, regardless of gender.
For estrogenic hormones, the situation is a bit more complex. Women who use estrogens will not reduce their chances of survival, but men will.
Why do women have a better immune system than men? It’s probably because of their genetic make-up.
Women have two X chromosomes. The X chromosome contains genes that are necessary for the production of receptors that immune cells use to detect pathogens, and genes that are necessary for the functioning of T and B cells. In contrast, the male Y chromosome mainly contains genes that are involved in inflammatory processes.