Women's estrogen levels may slow healing

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University of California investigators recently documented one reason why wounds tend to heal more slowly in women: estrogen levels.

“It's long been known that women suffer more than men from chronic inflammatory diseases; this study suggests that estrogen itself is responsible,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal. The study was published in its April 12 issue.

Karsten Gronert, Ph.D., and her colleagues administered a mild abrasion injury to the front of the eye of male and female mice. They then analyzed wound healing by image analysis. They gave male mice estrogen eye drops and/or drugs that activate specific estrogen receptors.

They found that estrogen negatively affects a highly evolved protective lipid circuit that has recently emerged as an important protective pathway called “15-lipoxygenase-Lipoxin-A4.” This pathway balances pro-inflammatory signals to promote wound healing and to keep inflammation within safe ranges.

This discovery provides new clues for treating a wide range of inflammatory diseases such as dry eye disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and scleroderma.