Gender Neurotoxicity Chemicals

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Gender Differences in Neurotoxicity Abstract Neurotoxicity is damage to the structure and/or function of the peripheral and central nervous systems. It is a common outcome of exposure to hundreds of environmental chemicals, which act via a wide range of mechanisms. Due to the fundamental importance of the nervous system to a fully functioning body, the neurotoxic effects of many chemicals have been well investigated. There is evidence from a number of studies of a difference in susceptibility to environmental neurotoxins between genders. Males appear to be more vulnerable than females. There may be many reasons for this difference, a key one being the neuroprotective activities of the gonadal (sex) hormones, which differ between males and females. The female hormone, oestrogen, is thought to have greater protective activity, from a wide range of chemicals than the male hormone, testosterone. This report will examine the available evidence of a gender difference in susceptibility to environmental neurotoxins, and look into the actions of hormones within the nervous system as one of the main reasons for this difference. Introduction The nervous system (NS) is a fundamental component of a fully functioning human body. Due to the immense importance of the NS, any damage that occurs to this system will have huge repercussions throughout the whole body. Unfortunately, the NS is extremely vulnerable, and neurons, with their unique shape, and long, thin extensions protruding from their cell bodies, are highly susceptible to degeneration, from ageing and from exogenous substances (1, 2). It has been observed that exposure to a range of different environmental chemicals can have adverse effects on the NS, resulting in degeneration of neurons, and leading to onset of various neurological diseases (2, 3). The developing NS in particular is extremely sensitive to the effects of such chemicals (2, 4). Prenatal, and early postnatal, exposure to environmental chemicals, such as lead and those in tobacco smoke, can affect the developmental process within the Central Nervous System (CNS). This can lead to slowed and incorrect development, and neurological problems in the early years of life (4). From both animal studies, and human case reports of inadvertent exposures, there is also evidence to suggest a difference between males and females in their susceptibilities to neurotoxicity of some environmental chemicals (5). There are a number of reasons why this may be, including differences in amounts and activities of metabolic enzymes, differences in rates of absorption between the sexes, different rates of clearance of exogenous substances from the body, and differences in exposure to neurotoxic chemicals; diet, hobbies, occupations, etc (6). However, a key reason may be the neuroprotection that is conferred by gonadal hormones, and their metabolites, within the NS (5). The aim of this report is to research evidence of sex differences in responses to environmental chemicals, and investigate hormonal influences as one of the reasons for this difference. Neurotoxicity of Environmental Chemicals Neurotoxicity is a term used to describe damage to the structure and/or function of the peripheral NS (PNS) and CNS, brought about by exposure to particular exogenous substances (7,

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