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HomeWomen's HealthThe Intercourse of Your Cells Issues When It Involves Coronary heart Illness

The Intercourse of Your Cells Issues When It Involves Coronary heart Illness


By Brian Aguado, College of California San Diego

Most mammals, together with people, have two intercourse chromosomes, X and Y. One intercourse chromosome is often inherited from every guardian, they usually pair up as both XX or XY in each cell of the physique. Individuals with XX chromosomes sometimes determine as feminine, and folks with XY chromosomes sometimes determine as male. The genes on these chromosomes play a key function in improvement and performance – together with how coronary heart illness develops.

Earlier than I turned a biomedical engineer finding out how intercourse chromosomes have an effect on the guts, I discovered about one curious perform of X chromosomes in my highschool science class, with the calico cat instance.

Feminine calico cats nearly all the time have orange and black splotches of fur, as a result of the gene that defines coat colour is discovered on the X chromosome. When an orange cat mates with a black cat, feminine offspring, which generally inherit one X chromosome from every guardian, can have a mix of orange and black fur – one X chromosome encodes for orange fur whereas the opposite encodes for black fur. For that reason, male cats, which generally have one X and one Y chromosome, have strong orange or black coats.

Calico and tortoiseshell cats have multicolored patches of fur as a result of solely certainly one of their two X chromosomes is activated in every cell.

How does this intercourse distinction in fur colour occur biologically? Because it seems, cells with XX chromosomes expertise X-inactivation: The X chromosome from one guardian is turned off in some cells, whereas the X chromosome inherited from the opposite guardian is turned off in others. Within the cells of feminine calico cats, X-inactivation can result in splotches of orange and black fur if one X chromosome comes from a guardian with orange fur and the opposite X chromosome comes from a guardian with black fur.

X-inactivation occurs as a result of organisms like cats and folks want just one X chromosome to perform correctly. To make sure the proper “dosage,” one of many X chromosomes is turned off in each cell. However a few of the genes on the inactivated X chromosome escape inactivation and keep turned on. Actually, as much as one-third of the genes on the X chromosome in folks can escape inactivation, and they’re thought to play a task in regulating well being and illness.

As a result of X-inactivation occurs solely in these folks with multiple X chromosome, researchers like me have been taking a look at how the genes that escape inactivation on the second X have an effect on the well being of individuals with XX chromosomes. We’ve discovered that for sure circumstances, cell intercourse could also be on the coronary heart of the matter.

A change of coronary heart

One illness that X chromosome escape genes partially regulate is aortic valve stenosis, a situation wherein the a part of the guts that controls blood circulation to the remainder of the physique stiffens and narrows. This makes the guts work tougher to pump blood and may in the end result in coronary heart failure. Very similar to an individual making an attempt to push open a door with rusty hinges, the guts will get drained. There are at the moment no efficient medication out there to gradual or halt AVS illness signs.

Diagram comparing a heart with a healthy aortic valve and a heart with aortic valve stenosis. The healthy valve opens fully while the diseased valve has a ragged and narrow opening.

Hearts with aortic valve stenosis should pump tougher to push blood by way of a narrowed aortic valve to the remainder of the physique.
SuneErichsen/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

My lab research how intercourse chromosomes can have an effect on cardiovascular circumstances like AVS. Earlier research have proven that the valves of individuals with XX versus XY chromosomes can stiffen in numerous methods. Typically, folks with XX chromosomes have elevated scarring, known as fibrosis, whereas folks with XY chromosomes have elevated calcium deposits. Given these variations, I suspected that giving the identical drug to everybody may not be the easiest way to deal with AVS. However what may very well be inflicting these variations?

By and huge, researchers suppose intercourse hormones drive intercourse variations in valve tissue stiffening. Certainly, lowering estrogen ranges throughout menopause can exacerbate coronary heart fibrosis. Nonetheless, research on heart problems in XX and XY mice have discovered that intercourse variations nonetheless persist even after surgically excising the reproductive organs that produce intercourse hormones.

My staff and I hypothesized that the genes that escape X-inactivation, being distinctive to folks with XX chromosomes, could also be driving these variations in valve stiffening. To check this concept, we developed bioengineered fashions of valve tissue utilizing hydrogels. Hydrogels mimic the stiffness of valve tissue higher than the normal petri dish medium, permitting us to check coronary heart cells in an atmosphere that extra intently resembles the physique.

Microscopy images comparing the presence of scar-promoting cells XY and XX heart cells, colored green with blue nuclei.

Coronary heart tissue with XX chromosomes has a better focus of cells (coloured inexperienced, with blue nuclei) that promote scarring than do cells with XY chromosomes.
Brian Aguado, CC BY-NC-ND

We discovered that the cells we grew on our hydrogel fashions had been capable of replicate the intercourse variations seen in valve tissue – particularly, valve cells with XX chromosomes had extra scarring than cells with XY chromosomes. Furthermore, after we decreased the exercise of genes that escaped X-inactivation, we had been capable of lower scarring in XX chromosome cells.

Our subsequent step was to make use of our fashions to find out which remedies work greatest for AVS based mostly on cell intercourse. We discovered that XX valve cells had been much less delicate than XY cells to those medication that focused genes that promote scarring. Medication that particularly goal genes that escape X-inactivation, nonetheless, have a stronger impact on XX cells.

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