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Hormonal Clue to Autoimmune Diseases Found

Study examines association between estrogen and inflammation in women

THURSDAY, June 3, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- New information about the relationship between estrogen and the antibodies that regulate inflammation is reported in a Baylor College of Dentistry study in the June issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism.

The findings suggest the need for further study into the role of estrogen on the incidence and severity of such autoimmune diseases as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis among women.

Researchers used cell cultures to examine several specific pathways where estrogen interacts with immune cells. They found a decrease of estrogen levels results in an increase in levels of CD16, a molecule of the cell surface that regulates inflammation.

This increase in CD16 starts a chain reaction of inflammation that affects joint and organ tissues.

The researchers say this shows that changes in estrogen can make a woman more vulnerable to rheumatoid arthritis and other kinds of inflammatory autoimmune diseases. Changes in estrogen can also increase the severity of symptoms caused by these diseases.

Autoimmune diseases are much more common in women than men. For example, lupus affects women up to 10 times more often than men, and women are two to three times more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about rheumatoid arthritis.

SOURCE: John Wiley & Sons Inc., news release, June 3, 2004
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