The metabolic profiles of blood serum have revealed significant differences in metabolites between men and women, say scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum M├╝nchen who have concluded that there is a need for gender-specific therapies. 

There are significant differences between male and female metabolism, they write, so gender-specific therapies may be required for some diseases. Such differences were shown to exist for 101 of the 131 metabolites, above all in lipid and amino acid species, in the sera of more than 3,000 volunteers who took part in the population-based KORA study. Professor Thomas Illig 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."

The researchers combined genetic data with metabolic profiles, which indicate the metabolic paths that are active given the specific conditions. The combination of genetics and metabolomics provides insight into the causes and progression of specific diseases. This could allow new therapeutic approaches and drugs to be developed, and enable markers to be found for the early recognition of diseases such as diabetes.

In the next phase, the scientists will increase the number of metabolites and 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 major widespread diseases such as diabetes mellitus develop," Professor Illig says.

CITATION: 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