Scleroderma Research Foundation Funded Researcher Talks with Fox News about Autoimmune Diseases in Women

By March 21, 2024No Comments

SRF-funded researcher Dr. Howard Chang shares a breakthrough discovery he & his collaborators made, shedding light on why women are more likely than men to develop autoimmune diseases like #scleroderma, in this recent piece from Fox News.

The Scleroderma Research Foundation (SRF) is the primary sponsor of this study. It’s a major milestone in our near decade-long concentrated effort to understand female-biased autoimmunity, a commitment spearheaded by Dr. Chang and his team.

Women account for nearly 80% of all cases of autoimmune disease—a category that includes scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome. In this study published in the journal Cell, Dr. Chang, an investigator at Stanford University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and his collaborators propose an explanation for the higher prevalence of autoimmune diseases in women compared to men.

They attribute it to the presence of a molecule called Xist that is responsible for silencing one X chromosome in every female cell. Xist and its associated proteins may be released from damaged cells. This may, in certain women, activate the immune system, leading to autoimmune disease. Because only female cells make Xist, this process does not happen in males.

It’s important to note that Xist is not likely the sole cause of autoimmunity. However, the findings suggest the potential for developing new treatments targeting the specific immune activation Xist can provoke instead of using broadly immunosuppressive drugs.

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