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Physiological Reports

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Cover image for Vol. 3 Issue 5

Editor-in-Chief: Susan Wray, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

Online ISSN: 2051-817X

Virtual Issue: Gender and Age

This Virtual Issue of Physiological Reports consists of articles on the subject of gender and age from the first year of publication, selected by the Editor-in-Chief, Sue Wray.

As our understanding of the basic mechanisms of physiology has gone from strength to strength, so too has our appreciation that the standard physiology we all enjoyed learning is largely based on a small subset of the population – the 70 kg man. While the information from this dataset has undoubtedly served us very well, the case has now been well made that more attention should be directed towards how our physiology is altered by gender and as we age. Sometimes these differences can be anticipated, based on organ size, composition and hormonal effects, but sometimes the differences can perplex or confound us. Why are some autoimmune diseases (Sjogren’s syndrome, sclerodema), found predominantly in one gender? Why should primary bilary cirrhosis be a disease almost exclusively of women and Tourette syndrome be mostly suffered by males?

‘Normal values’ are normal for whom? Blood pressure for example will normally be up to 10 mmHg higher if you are male than if you are female, unless you are beyond 50 and the menopause, when this difference is eradicated. Glomerular filtration rates decline with age, but are lower in young women than young men. Differences in physiology between female and males and their effect on sporting records are the stuff of the popular press, with terms such as ‘oxygen carrying capacity’, ‘aerobic ability’, ‘cardiac output’, ‘muscle hypertrophy’ and ‘body composition’ all used and discussed. Likewise the ‘use it or lose it’ slogan and 80 year olds running marathons in times that would shame many 40 year olds bring to the fore questions about the physiology of ageing.

These and similar examples of differences found in probably all our physiological systems and organs with gender and ageing obviously need to be borne in mind when comparing data between studies. However the effects of gender on physiology increased in importance to researchers, health professionals and politicians when their impact on both disease and therapeutics emerged. Heart attacks and hence preventative measures were not considered an issue for pre-menopausal women, leading to unnecessary deaths in this female age group. The effects of gender based differences both in symptoms and progression of heart disease and in outcomes are now better understood. Differences due to gender are now appreciated in hepatic handling of drugs, and the need for this to be taken into account when treating patients is also therefore better appreciated. Similar points can be made for the developing and ageing body. The clamour for personalised medicines takes these differences one step further by layering in genetic differences alongside the physiological ones of age and gender. Gender and age based studies of physiology, pharmacology and medicine have made important advances. In this virtual issue of Physiological Reports we have highlighted some of our papers showing the ongoing progress of this research.

Some highlights to draw you in:

  • A demonstration that moderate obesity is associated with impaired resistance arteriolar endothelial function and that this is more prominent in women than men and is associated with systemic inflammation. See Suboc et al. and then read Kinzenbaw et al. on how interleukin-10 protects against age-induced endothelial dysfunction. However, as Heffernan et al. show, older adults have impaired forearm vasodilatation in response to mental stress and although caffeine improved mood scores, it did not improve muscular strength in older adults, whereas it does in the young (see Tallis et al.).
  • An investigation of whether fibroblast growth factor 2 isoforms modulate cardiac development and physiology in isoform- and sex-specific manners (see Nusayr & Doetschman).
  • Electrophysiological recordings in slices of young and adolescent male rats to explore the influence of sex neurosteroids on synaptic plasticity in the CA1 hippocampal region, (Pettorossi et al.). The hippocampus was also the focus of Blegen et al.’s study. Although not strictly ageing, I have included this paper as it looks at multigenerational effects of fetal–neonatal iron deficiency on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signalling.
  • Do Achilles tendon stiffness and its relation to the energy cost of running differ in female and male trained runners? (see Fletcher et al.)
  • Age related changes in the kidney lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD). Slusarz et al. have data suggesting a novel mechanism by which matrix metalloproteinase MMP-7 contributes to the development of fibrosis leading to CKD.
  • Favourite title: ‘Enhanced force production in old age is not a far stretch: an investigation of residual force enhancement and muscle architecture’ (Power et al.); favourite species: ‘Effect of sexual maturation on muscle gene expression of rainbow trout: RNA-Seq approach’ (Salem et al.); and technique: ‘Development of a new Sonovue™ contrast-enhanced ultrasound approach reveals temporal and age-related features of muscle microvascular responses to feeding’ (Mitchell et al.).

Physiological Reports is the leading open access journal in physiology. It is co-owned and published by the American Physiological Society and The Physiological Society, and accepts both direct submissions and articles referred from the other journals of the two societies. It was launched in 2013 with an introductory editorial from the Editor-in-Chief published on 27 March (, the first research paper published on 7 May, and launch events at EB 2013 on 21 April and IUPS 2013 on 22 July; by the end of the year 178 research papers had been published. Physiological Reports publishes good, solid peer-reviewed research in basic and translational physiology and allied disciplines, and takes the lead in keeping physiology dynamic, accelerating discovery and giving the subject a competitive edge.

Moderate obesity and endothelial dysfunction in humans: influence of gender and systemic inflammation
Tisha Marie B. Suboc, Kodlipet Dharmashankar, Jingli Wang, Rong Ying, Allison B. Couillard, Michael J. Tanner and Michael E. Widlansky

Cardiac development and physiology are modulated by FGF2 in an isoform- and sex-specific manner
Eyad Nusayr and Tom Doetschman

Interleukin-10 Protects Against Aging-Induced Endothelial Dysfunction
Dale A. Kinzenbaw, Yi Chu, Ricardo A. Peña Silva, Sean P. Didion and Frank M. Faraci

Forearm vascular responses to mental stress in healthy older adults
Matthew J. Heffernan, Hardikkumar M. Patel and Matthew D. Muller

Modulatory role of androgenic and estrogenic neurosteroids in determining the direction of synaptic plasticity in the CA1 hippocampal region of male rats
Vito Enrico Pettorossi, Michela Di Mauro, Mariangela Scarduzio, Roberto Panichi, Alessandro Tozzi, Paolo Calabresi and Silvarosa Grassi

Assessment of the ergogenic effect of caffeine supplementation on mood, anticipation timing, and muscular strength in older adults
Jason Tallis, Michael J. Duncan, Sheila Leddington Wright, Emma L. J. Eyre, Elizabeth Bryant, Dominic Langdon and Rob. S. James

Multigenerational effects of fetal-neonatal iron deficiency on hippocampal BDNF signaling
Mariah B. Blegen, Bruce C. Kennedy, Katie A. Thibert, Jonathan C. Gewirtz, Phu V. Tran and Michael K. Georgieff

Overexpression of MMP-7 increases collagen 1A2 in the aging kidney
Anna Ślusarz, LaNita A. Nichols, Elizabeth A. Grunz-Borgmann, Gang Chen, Adebayo D. Akintola, Jeffery M. Catania, Robert C. Burghardt, Jerome P. Trzeciakowski and Alan R. Parrish

Effect of sexual maturation on muscle gene expression of rainbow trout: RNA-Seq approach
Mohamed Salem, Meghan L. Manor, Aunchalee Aussanasuwannakul, Patrick Brett Kenney, Gregory M. Weber and Jianbo Yao

Development of a new Sonovue™ contrast-enhanced ultrasound approach reveals temporal and age-related features of muscle microvascular responses to feeding
William Kyle Mitchell, Bethan E. Phillips, John P. Williams, Debbie Rankin, Kenneth Smith, Jonathan N. Lund and Philip J. Atherton

Energy cost of running and Achilles tendon stiffness in man and woman trained runners
Jared R. Fletcher, Ted R. Pfister and Brian R. MacIntosh

Enhanced force production in old age is not a far stretch: an investigation of residual force enhancement and muscle architecture
Geoffrey A. Power, Demetri P. Makrakos, Charles L. Rice and Anthony A. Vandervoort