A role for ovarian hormones has been suspected in airway inflammation but the cellular target for such action is not known. In a study published in March Thorax, Zhaoa and colleagues from the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, and the University of Medical Sciences, Changchun, China, provide evidence that mast cells can be a target for sex hormones in the airways.

Using immunohistochemistry, Zhaoa et al examined inflammatory nasal polyp tissues from 47 subjects and found that only mast cells tested positive for oestrogen and progesterone receptors (ER/PR) whereas all other inflammatory cells were negative. Of the mast cells 61.7% expressed ER and 59.6% expressed PR. Expression of ER/PR was independent of patient sex and age but was highly correlated with the numbers of mast cells. Fewer than 5% of mast cells were found to be negative for ER/PR expression (Thorax 2001, 56:205-211).

Further studies are...

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