New research published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology shows that the progesterone receptor functions to regulate the helper T cells required for developing antibodies that protect humans against disease
Women who are pregnant or using synthetic progesterone birth control injections have a conspicuous vulnerability to certain infections including malaria, Listeria, HIV, and herpes simplex virus. A new research report appearing in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology offers strong evidence for a possible explanation: the progesterone receptor, a pregnancy hormone sensor, targets a part of the immune system responsible for protection against these and other invaders. In addition to helping explain why some women are more vulnerable to certain infections, it also sheds light on why some autoimmune diseases, notably rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, often go into remission during pregnancy.
"We hope that continued work in this area will ultimately yield better approaches to the prevention of immunological complications of pregnancy, safer and more effective forms of hormonal birth control and novel biological targets for the treatment of autoimmune diseases," said Grant C. Hughes, M.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Division of Rheumatology and Department of Immunology at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA.