For women depending on steroids to treat severe asthma, their body’s estrogen may not only be preventing the treatment from working effectively, but making the asthma worse, according to a recent Western study. They had assumed estrogen would just affect how well the steroid works it didn’t. It makes them different and more aggressive, said Lauren Solomon, a postdoctoral scholar working with Pathology and Laboratory Medicine professor Lisa Cameron.

Advent of the internet

Steroid use, while far from normalized or acceptable; so has become much more commonplace since the advent of the internet. It’s now easier to learn about steroids, easier to sell steroids, easier to purchase steroids; also thanks to the miracle of social media, easier to showcase steroid-enhanced bodies than ever before. Hell, for people like ex-baseball star Jose Canseco and recently deceased celebrity bodybuilder Rich Piana.
The steroids are still suppressing inflammation. So the symptoms are being treated. But it’s not treating the actual white blood cells causing it. So when they get exposed to another allergen, the asthma comes again and it’s worse. Currently affecting about three million Canadians, Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airway. While sufferer airways are inflamed, to some degree, all the time, the more inflamed the airway the more difficulty they have in breathing.
When Solomon began working with Cameron, they notice women with severe asthma differ from their male counterparts. Determined through blood samples, women had more of a specific T cell a type of white blood cell of key importance to the immune system than the men, making Solomon wonder if it was relate to those pesky sex hormones.

Models from blood donors

They began working with cell culture models from blood donors; so adding estrogen and steroids. They find that while women with severe asthma were prescribe steroids some getting the maximum allowable dose nothing was happening. In fact, things got worse in some instances.

They can treat the cells for 24 hours with estrogen and steroids and the next day; so when they activate them; so they produce way more mediators; meaning the next time they are expose to an antigen, it’s worse, they said. Solomon is continuing her work by exploring specific RNA sequencing targets where she can enumerate the cells, allowing her to determine whose medication is not working and making them better candidates for newer therapies or medications.
“If they can get this information out there, if they can influence prescribing habits; so there are alternative drugs that are already approved,” they said. They can now say if it’s a woman going through menopause taking hormone replacement therapy, maybe check her estrogen levels.