A recent discovery was made at the National Institutes of Health regarding inflammation of the stomach. It was discovered by scientists that androgens or male sex hormones have an important part in the prevention of stomach inflammation in mice. The findings from this study have implications regarding the different treatment options for inflammation of the stomach for male patients. During this study, the scientists removed the adrenal glands of both sexes of mice. Adrenal glands are the source of glucocorticosteroids that suppress inflammation. In the current study, the stomach inflammation occurred in the female mice as adrenal glands were removed and there was the absence of glucocorticosteroids. Stomach inflammation did not manifest in male mice at his point. However, the inflammation in the stomach of male mice developed after the removal of androgens.
According to researchers, the role of androgens in inflammation regulation is relatively a new idea. They stated that androgens and glucocorticosteroids serve as brakes for the immune system and have a key role in the regulation of inflammation of the stomach. Due to the presence of one layer of defense by glucocorticosteroids in females, they develop chronic stomach inflammation and precancerous conditions in the absence of glucocorticosteroids. But in males, androgens, being the second line of protection, can pick up the defenses if glucocorticosteroids are not there to regulate inflammation. They also mentioned that rates of autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammatory states vary in males and females. Women constitute 8 out of 10 people with autoimmune diseases.
Mechanism: The scientists also learned about a mechanism behind the current findings. The glucocorticosteroids and androgens inhibit type 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2), a type of special immune cells. But in diseased stomach cells, these inhibitory hormones are not present, the ILC2 may attract macrophages to elicit an inflammatory response and may lead to SPEM (spasmolytic polypeptide- expressing metaplasia) and can ultimately develop into cancer.
Future direction: Researchers are currently studying the regulation of inflammation in females and going forward, researchers aim to understand the role of glucocorticosteroids and androgens in stomach cancer that occurs due to chronic inflammation by building on the current knowledge and doing more research.
This story was originally published in Gastroenterology and this study was done by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a part of the National Institutes of Health.
Please note that this is a finding of basic research and it will have to go through further testing and corroborated by clinical research. Basic research improves our understanding of the scientific process which can direct the direction of further research.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Male Hormones Regulate Stomach Inflammation in Mice, Accessed May 19, 2021, https://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsroom/releases/2021/may14/index.cfm
National Library of Medicine, Glucocorticoids, and androgens protect from gastric metaplasia by suppressing group 2 innate lymphoid cell activation, Accessed May 19, 2021, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33971182/