Silencing the X Chromosome: Unraveling the Link between Women and Autoimmune Susceptibility

Women are more frequently affected by autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases affect one in five people and include conditions like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and thyroiditis. These diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues, leading to inflammation and tissue damage. The prevalence of autoimmune diseases has been increasing in the 21st century due to better diagnostics and changes in lifestyle and environment. Women are more susceptible to these diseases, with up to 80 percent of those affected being female.

Researchers at Stanford University have identified a mechanism on the X chromosome that may explain why women are more susceptible to autoimmune attacks. The X chromosome in women is partially silenced in most cells to prevent an overproduction of proteins. This silencing is mediated by a molecular cover formed by xist-rna strands and proteins, and the silencing may contribute to autoimmune diseases in women. By studying mice with altered xist protein strands, researchers found that these mice were more severely affected by autoimmune disease, suggesting a link between the X chromosome and autoimmune susceptibility in humans.

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