You may have heard that women usually have healthier kidneys compared to men.
This difference matters because kidneys play a crucial role in filtering waste out of our blood.
But why is this so, and is there anything men can do to improve the health of their kidneys? Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have some answers.
The Role of Hormones in Kidney Health
A study led by Professor Andy McMahon at USC found out how hormones like testosterone affect kidney health in mice.
Hormones are basically chemical messengers that tell our body what to do.
In this study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, McMahon’s team figured out that over a thousand genes in the kidneys behave differently in male and female mice.
Most of these differences show up when mice hit puberty and grow into adults. These genes mainly affect the part of the kidney that filters nutrients back into the blood, helping us absorb the good stuff like sugar and proteins.
How Testosterone Makes a Difference
So, what makes women’s kidneys generally stronger? McMahon’s team points to testosterone, the hormone that plays a big role in making males… well, male.
To test this idea, the researchers tried two things: they either removed the testicles of male mice before puberty, which lowered their testosterone levels, or they took out the “antennas” in cells that respond to testosterone.
Both methods made the kidneys of male mice act more like those of females.
And guess what? Even cutting calories for three months had a similar impact because it lowered testosterone levels. Lowering calorie intake has already been known to help with some types of kidney problems in mice.
To flip the switch back, all the researchers had to do was to inject testosterone back into the male mice.
And it worked the other way around too: injecting female mice with testosterone made their kidneys act more like those of males.
Human Implications and Next Steps
The team also compared their findings with human kidneys to see if the same things happen in us. They found some similarities, which suggests we might be on to something.
However, McMahon said that more research is needed to fully understand how men and women differ in kidney health.
So, what does all this mean? It’s too early to say for sure, but understanding how hormones affect kidney health could lead to better treatments for both men and women in the future.
It might help close the gap between men and women when it comes to kidney problems and may even lead to new ways of improving kidney health overall.
If you care about kidney health, please read studies about drug that prevents kidney failure in diabetes, and drinking coffee could help reduce risk of kidney injury.
For more information about kidney health, please see recent studies about foods that may prevent recurrence of kidney stones, and common painkillers may harm heart, kidneys and more.
The research findings can be found in Developmental Cell.
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