Gender influences the prevalence and progression rate of many renal diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease (PKD). The physiology behind gender differences and renal disease is still uncertain, but the distinct characteristics of male and female kidney size, along with diet and the presence of hypertension, have all been thought to play a part. Sex hormones (oestrogen, testosterone) have also thought to contribute to the differences, as hormones may influence the body’s responses to renal injury. Oestrogen especially may exert certain cellular effects on the kidney because it can suppress the growth of scar tissue as well as affect various growth factors which impact the kidney.
Research Update: Oestrogen in Renal Disease Previous studies using animal models have used hormonal manipulation to explore the effects of sex hormones on renal disease. In these studies, researchers either added supplemental levels of oestrogen/testosterone to rats or castrated/performed ovariectomies in males and females rats, respectively. The studies found that oestrogen helped to protect against kidney disease while testosterone proved to be detrimental to kidney health.More recently, Dr. Sharon Silbiger of the Department of Medicine/Division of Nephrology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY and her colleagues examined the direct effects of oestrogen on the production of collagens (proteins that contribute to kidney scarring) in the cells located around the small blood vessels of the kidneys (cultured mesangial cells). She and her colleagues found that:
- the female hormone oestradiol inhibited the activity of transforming growth factor (TGF-β); TGF-β promotes scarring of the kidney in many renal diseases.
- estradiol does this by preventing TGF-β from activating the enzyme (casein kinase 2) which affects collagen production.
- in this way oestrogen reduces the production of collagen in these cultured cells and may reduce scarring in renal disease.