Science Writing, Jul 14 (EFE) .- The loss of the male sex chromosome (Y) in old age causes scarring of the heart muscle and can lead to fatal heart failure, but it could also be the reason why men live , on average, a few years younger than women.
These are the main findings of a study led by Kenneth Walsh, a researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine (United States), which suggests that men who lose the Y chromosome – it is estimated that they are 40% of the elderly age 70 – could benefit from a drug that heals damaged tissue.
According to the research, published this Thursday in the journal Science, this drug could counteract the harmful effects of chromosome loss, which can manifest not only in the heart, but also in other parts of the body.
In the United States, women live an average of five years longer than men. The finding of this study “could explain almost four of those five years of difference,” according to Walsh.
“Especially after the age of 60, men die more quickly than women. It is as if they biologically aged faster. This research gives clues as to why men have a shorter life than women”, adds the researcher.
While women have two X chromosomes, men have one X and one Y, but with age many begin to lose the Y chromosome in a part of their cells, something especially safe in smokers.
It had been observed that men who suffer from the loss of the Y chromosome in their white blood cells are more likely to die at a younger age and suffer from age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, but until now the cause had not been identified.
Walsh’s research is the first to show that this loss has deleterious effects on men’s health.
To do the research, Walsh and his team used the CRISPR gene-editing technique and developed a special mouse model to study the effects of Y chromosome loss in the blood of mice.
They found that this loss accelerated age-related diseases, made the mice more prone to heart scarring, and led to earlier death.
But for the scientists, this was not the result of simple inflammation. Rather, the mice underwent a complex series of immune system responses that led to a process called fibrosis throughout the body.
The authors believe that this push and pull of the immune system may accelerate the development of the disease.
The team also examined the effects of Y-chromosome loss in men using data collected from the UK Biobank.
They found that Y-chromosome loss was associated with cardiovascular disease and heart failure, and that as chromosome loss increased, so did the risk of death.
These findings suggest that combating the effects of Y-chromosome loss could help men live longer and healthier lives.
For Walsh, a possible treatment option could be a drug, pirfenidone, which has already been approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a form of lung scarring.
The drug is also being tested for the treatment of heart failure and chronic kidney disease, two conditions that cause tissue scarring.
Walsh believes that men with Y-chromosome loss might respond especially well to this drug and to other classes of anti-fibrotic drugs that are being developed, although more research will be needed to find out.
(c) EFE Agency