Do sex hormones contribute to MS gender imbalance through immune cells

Mr Jeremy Keane

Westmead Institute for Medical Research, NSW

| Causes and Prevention | Genetics | Incubator | 2019 | Investigator Led Research |


There is a marked gender effect in MS, with women significantly more affected than men. This phenomenon may be mediated by sex hormones, particularly oestrogen. Females are protected from MS relapses during pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester, when oestrogen levels are high. However, they are at increased risk of a relapse after delivery when oestrogen levels drop. Despite this, clinical trials aimed at mimicking this pregnancy protection, using estradiol (a form of oestrogen), have been unsuccessful.

Mr Jeremy Keane and his team have found that certain immune cells infected with Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) express MS risk genes differently in cells from men compared to those from women. In this study, he seeks to determine if these differences are caused by different responses to sex hormones. He will test this by changing the sex hormone levels in EBV-infected cells from men and women that have been grown in the laboratory. This work will indicate how sex hormones may affect MS, which may be used for therapeutic benefit.

Updated: 27 November 2019

Updated: 02 January, 2019


  • Mr Jeremy Keane


  • Professor David Booth
  • Dr Sanjay Swaminathan

Grant Awarded

  • Incubator Grant

Total Funding

  • $24,873


  • 1 year - starting 2019

Funding Partner

  • Neil and Norma Hill Foundation
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