Multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, even psoriasis — these are diseases in which the body begins to attack itself, and they all have one thing in common: they affect women more than men. Most autoimmune disorders do. And not just by a little bit, often by a lot; in some cases, as much as sixteen times more. But why? On today’s episode, we talk to scientists trying to answer that question. We go back 100 million years, to when our placenta first evolved and consider how it might have shaped our immune system. We dive deep into the genome, to stare at one of the most famous chromosomes: the X. And we also try to unravel a mystery — why is it that for some females, autoimmune disorders seemingly disappear during pregnancy?
This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Sindhu Gnanasambandan and Molly Webster. The Gonads theme song was written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington.
Looking for something else to listen to? We suggest pairing “The Unsilencing” with “Everybody’s Got One,” an episode about an unknown super-organ that nobody on the planet would be here without: the placenta.
Want to learn more? You can …
...check out a Montserrat Anguera XX study,
...read Melissa Wilson’s placental, pregnancy hypothesis,
…and get a primer on Rhonda Voskuhl’s estriol & Multiple Sclerosis work.
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