Metabolomics as a basis for gender-specific drugs

Analyses of the metabolic profile of blood serum reveal significant differences between men and women. From their tests, scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have concluded that there is a need for gender-specific therapies. The study was financed by the German Centre for Diabetes Research and was published in the current edition of the internationally renowned peer-reviewjournal PLoS Genetics.

Gender-specific therapies may be required for some diseases as there are significant differences between male and female metabolism. The differences affect 101 of the 131 metabolites tested in this study – above all lipid and amino acid species – in the serum of more than 3,000 volunteers who took part in the population-based KORA study. Professor Thomas Illig, Head of the Research Unit of Molecular Epidemiology, and Dr. Kirstin Mittelstrass see this as proof that “in terms of molecular profiles, men and women have to be assigned to two completely different categories. That means that we also need gender-specific approaches to the treatment of diseases.”

For their recent study, the scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München combined genetic data with metabolic profiles which were established in the Metabolomics Platform of the Genome Analysis Center. The genetic analysis was conducted by Professor Thomas Meitinger, Director of the Institute of Human Genetics.

In the next phase, the scientists will increase the number of metabolites and also evaluate further studies from a gender-specific point of view. “Through the combination of gender-specific evaluation, genetic association studies and metabolomics we will gain a detailed understanding of how the major widespread diseases such as diabetes mellitus develop,” Professor Illig says. Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying widespread diseases and defining new starting points for their diagnosis, treatment and prevention are aims of the Helmholtz Zentrum München.

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Reference:
Mittelstrass K, Ried JS, Yu Z, Krumsiek J, Gieger C, et al. (2011) “Discovery of Sexual Dimorphisms in Metabolic and Genetic Biomarkers,” PLoS Genet 7(8): e1002215. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002215.

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