male hormone testosterone stimulates the release of a molecule called
interleukin 33 (IL-33), which could protect women from multiple sclerosis
- Testosterone has
a protective effect against multiple sclerosis, a chronic condition that
- The benefit
appears to be due to the stimulation of the production of interleukin-33
by mast cells.
- The discovery
opens up new options for the development of treatments for multiple
. The study
in mice which revealed this finding was published in the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences
sclerosis affects females around three-to-four times more commonly as compared
It also manifests at an earlier age in females as compared to males.
‘The protective mechanism of testosterone in multiple sclerosis has been suggested to be due to the production of a molecule called interleukin-33 (IL-33).’
their experiments in mice, the scientists proposed a possible mechanism for the
protective effect of testosterone in multiple sclerosis
. Multiple sclerosis
arises when a type of immune cells
called Th17 cells damage the myelin sheath that covers the nerves. The male
hormone testosterone stimulates the release of a molecule called IL-33 by
certain immune cells called the mast cells (which often mediate an allergic
reaction). IL-33 in turn stimulates multiple reactions that ultimately prevent
the development of the Th17 cells, and reverses changes associated with
multiple sclerosis in female mice.
findings of this study could possibly explain the reason behind the fact that
males are less likely to suffer from multiple sclerosis as compared to females. Additional research focused on these
findings will hopefully provide an additional treatment option for patients
with the debilitating disease.
Though women may not have the natural
benefit of testosterone in preventing multiple sclerosis and cannot be directly
administered testosterone due to its side effects, a new treatment can be
developed that uses the testosterone
and IL-33 mediated pathway to protect
females from the disease.
sclerosis is an autoimmune condition where antibodies attack the myelin sheath,
the membrane that encases nerves in the brain and the spinal cord
. Damage to
the sheath disrupts the function of the nerves, resulting in progressive
weakness, sensory loss and cognitive defects, sometimes even crippling the
Treatment of multiple
sclerosis currently consists of medicines to modify the course of the disease
like beta interferon, glatiramer
hydrochloride, drugs that relieve symptoms that include corticosteroids, muscle
relaxants, antidepressants and gabapentin, and physical and occupational
therapy to cope with disability caused by the disease.
- Abigail E. Russi, Mark E. Ebel, Yuchen Yang and Melissa A. Brown. Male-specific IL-33 expression regulates sex-dimorphic EAE susceptibility. PNAS (2018); https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1710401115