New Study Finds Possible Linkage to Autoimmune Prevalence in Women
It’s been established that autoimmune diseases, including lupus, disproportionately affect women more than men, but researchers have long wondered why. In a new study, researchers found that the additional X chromosome in women might play a role in autoimmune disease propensity, specifically a special type of ribonucleic acid or RNA called “Xist” (pronounced “exist”).
While the gene for Xist is found on all X chromosomes, it is only produced when there are two X chromosomes which is why it is only found in biological women. Xist attaches to the long stretch of RNA found on the additional X chromosome and inactivates the other X chromosomes’ genetic output. Xist attracts proteins that bind to it and trigger a strong immune response in the body. Many of those proteins are associated with autoimmune diseases.
In the study, researchers inserted the gene for Xist into male mice to see if they became susceptible to autoimmune diseases. They found the male mice with the active Xist gene developed lupus-like autoimmunity at rates similar to that of females. While Xist alone didn’t cause all the mice to develop autoimmune disorder-like conditions, it showcases there are other influences at play that contribute to disease development. In addition, researchers also examined blood samples from 100 people with autoimmune disease and 20 without autoimmune diseases. They found people with autoimmune diseases had more disease-specific Xist autoantibodies in their blood, which could help with future diagnosis and treatment.
This research could be a breakthrough in the field and could lead to the discovery of new interventions and new ways to diagnose many autoimmune diseases. Learn more about what causes lupus.
Interested in getting research like this straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our bimonthly Inside Lupus Research email for all the latest.