Scientists from Stanford University have shown that the genes that lead to a lower response to the influenza vaccine in males are regulated by testosterone, and that a higher testosterone level correlated with lower antibody production to influenza vaccination. It has long been known that females, as a group, have stronger immune responses than males, and the authors used a systems biology approach to identify the immune response to vaccination with seasonal influenza vaccine to understand why. They found that males with higher levels of serum testosterone, and of lipid metabolism genes, tended to have a weaker immune response both in terms of antibodies and inflammatory cytokines. The authors wrote that their study “generates a number of hypotheses on the sex differences observed in the human immune system and their relationship to mechanisms involved in the antibody response to vaccination.” They published their findings in the Dec. 23, 2013, advance online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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