In a finding that could help scientists better research a potential treatment for inflammatory bowel disease, researchers at Michigan State University have discovered that female mice have a natural protection against certain digestive conditions.
Crohn's disease and colitis, the two most common forms of IBD, involve abnormal functioning of the immune system that can damage the digestive tract, causing inflammation, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and other symptoms.
For the study, researchers induced colitis by giving mice with weakened immune systems a dose of bacteria that can cause digestive trouble.
After six weeks, the males had significantly more severe symptoms than the females and had more of the bacteria left in their guts. The males also showed more deterioration of their bones, which studies have linked to gut inflammation.
"It seems females are protected from bad bacteria-induced bone loss, and it's because they have reduced gut inflammation," co-author Laura McCabe, a professor in the MSU Departments of Physiology and Radiology, said.
"When we looked at markers of inflammation in the male mice, they were really high, whereas the females didn't have that kind of bad response. They can somehow handle these nasty bacteria," she said.
The study is published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.