Gender differences in MS

We already know that MS affects more women than men, but is that the whole story?

The MS and Gender session held late last week at ECTRIMS was an informative overview of how and why MS affects males and females differently. French researcher Dr. Vukusik, who started the session off with a lecture on the epidemiology – the study of population patterns – of MS noted that the link between MS and gender is somewhat of a paradox.

While MS is more frequent in women, it appears that MS is more severe and progresses more rapidly in men. She added that the female to male ratio in MS is dependant on the status of disease at onset. For example, for relapsing-remitting MS, the ratio is 2 women to 1 man. For progressive MS, the ratio is 1:1. This was observed in both Europe and in Canada. Interestingly, the sex ratio in MS has increased by 30% since the 1940’s, which prompts the question of what may have led to the increased cases of MS in women or decreased cases of MS in men.

Researchers have looked at factors such as age, life-expectancy, diagnosis, genetics, smoking, environmental factors, oral contraceptives, age at pregnancy, etc. to come up with an explanation.

As research technology advances, more answers begin to surface. Dr. Rhonda Voshkul from the UCLA Department of Neurology has done extensive research into the role of hormones in the observed gender differences in MS. In her ECTRIMS presentation, she noted that several studies show a decrease in MS activity during pregnancy, conferring a possible protective effect governed by changes in hormone levels.

Scientists continue to conduct both human and animal research that will fully unravel the role of hormones in MS. According to Dr. Voshkul, progesterone and estradiol – key hormones in the female reproductive cycle – display anti-inflammatory and remylination abilities in a number of MS studies. In addition, removal of testosterone in mice with MS-like disease has led to worsening of symptoms. This finding suggests that testosterone may have a protective capacity in MS. New research evaluating the therapeutic potential of testosterone shows that treatment with the hormone increases brain plasticiy and remyelination in mice with MS-like disease.

I am confident that with all the great research on hormones, and other gender-specific or gender-related factors such as menopause, lifestyle habits, and genetics, we will have a clearer picture of the impact of gender on susceptibility and severity of MS, as well as a better explanation for the differences observed between men and women.

2 thoughts on “Gender differences in MS

  1. Heinz J. Mensing

    Heavens: women bleed for some 35 to 40 years, loose iron, that makes the difference in MS progression! (NOT in incidence, prevalence.)
    The central question is: What CAUSES MS (on the basis of a genetic predisposition)?
    This has been answered many decades ago:

    Go down to the chapter “Die Spirochaeta myelo…”, click on “LOOK INSIDE” and go to the second page (= p37): There you have the culprits, the cause of MS – documented for more than half a century, but IGNORED! (There are many more micrographs in the book showing spirochetes / borreliae in MS lesions. Neuropathologist Judith Miklossy has confirmed the histopathological work of Prof. Steiner with modern techniques, immunofluorescence…, but ?not published – other work on Alzheimer’s disease etiology has priority…)

    (Enter multiple sclerosis 1958 into a PubMed search to find for example a study by Newman et al. from Stanford in 1958, who cultivated spirochetes from MS CFS, or Brorson & Brorson from Norway 2001…: Why is all this ignored?)

    The author of the 1962 book on MS, Prof. Gabriel Steiner (1883-1965), was at Heidelberg University, but as a Jew was expelled by the Nazis in 1933, emigrated to the USA in 1936 and became a neurology professor at Wayne Universtity in 1937.
    There he continued his research… (Several papers by him found on PubMed…)

    His reviews on MS (i.e. in 1922, proving that the hypothetical spirochetal Infection causing MS was transmitted by ticks – almost 60 years before Willy Burgdorfer found borreliae in ticks he had collected) are written in German.
    I suggest that you contact SPRINGER publishers in ?Heidelberg / Berlin / ?New York… and ask if a translation of the ca. 150 page book would be possible. (I myself have looked for persons who might translate that book into English, and for possible funding…, up to now without success. I would help with the translation, knowing much of the work of Prof. G.Steiner, but am not a translator myself.)

    If you really want to know what causes MS you cannot ignore the early work from Germany (wich is a major draw-back of the 600 page book on MS history by Prof. Jock Murray, Halifax).
    Unfortunately present-day German neurology is not interested in the work of their former collegue Gabriel Steiner at all. So I have started to look outside Europe for help…
    Heinz J. Mensing

    1. Heinz J. Mensing

      I should add: If we accept the results of the decade-long research of Prof. G.Steiner on MS causation (which I do), what makes the difference in MS incidence has to be related to “tick exposure” differences in women (or rather girls) compared to men (boys), changing over the last centrury or so.

      To me this is quite clear…


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