BME/IQ Seminar: Yun Liang, PhD, University of Michigan

Event Date/Time: 
July 10, 2017 - 9:00am
Event Location: 
Atrium, Bio Engineering Facility (775 Woodlot Dr)
Yun Liang, PhD
Topic: What makes women more susceptible to autoimmune diseases

 What makes women more susceptible to autoimmune diseases

Yun Liang, Ph.D.
Research Investigator
Department of Dermatology
University of Michigan



THE PROBLEM. Sexual dimorphism is the distinct difference exhibited by the two sexes of the same species. In humans, one remarkable example of sexual dimorphisms is immune regulation. Autoimmune diseases, which feature a dysfunction of the immune system in which the body attacks its own tissues, substantially affect more women than men. Overall 78% of autoimmune patients are women, and this percentage can reach 95% for specific diseases. In contrast, infectious diseases affect more men than women. This suggests that fundamental differences in immunological processes exist between males and females. Further, these differences are clinically significant, as evidenced by documented drug responses that are sex-dependent. For example, 80% of the drugs withdrawn from the US market from 1997-2000 had greater adverse effects in women. In order to address the sex-specific effect of drugs, we will need to first understand the molecular basis of sexual dimorphisms in immune regulation.

THE FINDINGS. By applying genomics, transcriptomics, cell biology, and immunology techniques, we identified a female-biased molecular signature that associates significantly with increased susceptibility to autoimmunity. In addition, we discovered VGLL3 as a regulator of this signature as well as genes whose expression is altered in multiple autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjögren’s Syndrome, and systemic sclerosis. This study was among the first to identify a molecular mechanism underlying sexual dimorphisms in immune regulation that is independent of sex hormones or sex chromosomes. This finding will allow us to develop novel measures for personalized, sex-specific prevention and treatment of immunological diseases.


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