Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s affect men and women differently, influencing treatments

A growing body of research reveals that men and women are affected differently by brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, so researchers urge their colleagues to remember those differences when researching treatments and cures. in the journal ‘APL Bioengineering’.

Scientists at the University of Maryland, in the United States, highlight that this growing body of research suggests that sexual differences play a role in the way in which patients respond to brain diseases, as well as multiple sclerosis, the disease of motor neurons and other brain ailments.

That’s progress from a few years ago, says Alisa Morss Clyne, director of the university’s Vascular Kinetics Laboratory. “I have worked with vascular cells for 20 years and, until about five years ago, if you asked me if the sex of my cells mattered, I would have said no,” she acknowledges Clyne. But then she worked on a difficult study in which data appeared “all over the place.”

“We separated the data from the cells by sex and it all made sense,” she explains, Clyne. “It was an awakening for me that we should be looking into this.”

The changes are associated with the breakdown of what is called the blood-brain barrier, a border of cells that prevents the wrong type of molecules in the bloodstream from entering the brain and damaging it.

Published research has shown differences in the blood-brain barriers of men and women. Some of the research suggests that the barrier may be stronger in women than in men, and the barriers in men and women are constructed and behave differently.

That could influence known differences in the sexes, such as Alzheimer’s disease is more common in older women than in men, while Parkinson’s affects men more often and tends to be more severe.

The authors note that they hope their paper will serve as a reminder to researchers, not just in their own field, but across the sciences, that taking gender differences into account leads to better results.

“I think there has been an awakening in the last 10 years or so that you can’t ignore sex differences,” Clyne says. “My goal is to inspire people to include sex differences in their research, no matter what. what research they are doing. “

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