There are large differences in men and women
that go well beyond their reproductive systems. Now, the Journal of Neuroscience Research
is dedicating an issue entirely to sex differences at all levels of the
brain, from the genetic and epigenetic level, to the synaptic,
cellular, and systems levels.
In one study in the issue, researchers examined how variants in the
gene that codes for a protein called galanin might influence
susceptibility to multiple sclerosis (MS) in males compared with
females. Recent studies have found elevated levels of this protein in
post-mortem brain samples of patients with MS.
‘The Journal of Neuroscience Research is dedicating an issue entirely to sex differences at all levels of the brain, from the genetic and epigenetic level, to the synaptic, cellular, and systems levels.’
In this latest work,
investigators compared the frequencies of "more active" and "less
active" variants of the DNA sequences that control expression of the
galanin gene between healthy controls and MS patients. Initially they
found no difference between the two groups; however, when considering
gender, there was a more than two fold decrease in a "less active"
genetic variant in healthy men compared with healthy women.
the presence of this variant increased susceptibility to MS in men but
not in women. The presence of this variant in men was also associated
with delayed onset of MS. Interestingly, the progression rate of MS was
significantly accelerated in women if they carried the variant.
"We hope that our findings will foster development of a personalized
strategy for the prevention and treatment of multiple sclerosis, one
that takes into account the gender-specific contribution of galanin gene
variants to susceptibility and disease progression," said Dr. Victoria
Lioudyno, lead author of the study.
"Neuroscience today is at a crossroads. Do we continue the status
quo and ignore sex as a biological variable, or do we acknowledge that
sex influences the brain at all levels and address the major gaps in
knowledge?" asked Dr. Eric M Prager, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Neuroscience Research
"The work published in this issue unequivocally concludes that sex
matters and that researchers can no longer allow for the over-reliance
on male animals and cells, which obscure key differences that might
influence clinical studies."