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Metabolic type: muscles know gender – DocCheck

Researchers have studied how muscles interact with metabolism at the genetic level. They found astonishing gender differences.

Muscles release proteins called myokines that enable them to communicate with organs such as the kidneys, liver or brain. This is essential for maintaining metabolic balance in the body. However, myokines also influence other processes in the body such as inflammation, cancer or changes caused by physical activity. Despite the importance of myokines for many physiological functions, the way these proteins are regulated remains largely unexplored.

gender differences

A team of researchers therefore wanted to know what influence the genetic structure has on the way the muscles transmit signals to other tissues. In a current study, they investigated how myokines are regulated at the genetic level. The scientists used the natural correlation structure of gene expression to understand how muscles interact with metabolic tissue. However, they not only wanted to know something about the signaling across tissues, but also to investigate whether gender-specific differences can be identified. The study is the first to examine how genetic architecture affects muscle signaling to other tissues.

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“We already know that skeletal muscle plays an essential role in coordinating physiological homeostasis. In this study, we wanted to understand how muscle interacts with metabolic tissue and show how important it is to consider the effects of genetic sex and sex hormones when studying metabolism,” says biochemist Prof Marcus Seldin.

Focus on pancreas and liver

While the expression levels of most myokines and cell proportions within skeletal muscle are relatively similar in males and females, the researchers found an astonishing difference in signaling: almost all myokine accumulations across tissues were dependent on hormone status, especially estradiol levels. These gender and hormone-specific effects have been demonstrated in all tissue structures important for metabolism, such as the liver, pancreas, intestines and heart. So the circuits that muscles used to transmit were different in men and women. Among other things, the research team was able to show that the muscle in women sends more signals to the pancreas, while in men the Singla transmission to the liver dominates.

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movement for life

The new discovery sheds light on how exercise boosts metabolism, improves cognition and lengthens lifespan. Going forward, the research team plans to develop cell-based systems to study some of the newly discovered hormones and why they affect signaling differently in men and women.

This text is based on a press release from the University of California – Irvine. You can find the original publication here.

Image credit: Edgar Chaparro, unsplash.

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