Study from School of Neuroscience urges more research into sex … – Virginia Tech

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Assistant Professor Georgia Hodes and Ph.D. student Dawson Kropp also suggest new studies are needed in how these differences can help with developing personalized therapeutics.
21 Aug 2023
In 2016, recognizing that lack of research in female animals was hampering the success of treatments for mood disorders, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) changed its policy for basic research to include sex as a biological variable for basic research, a move that triggered an explosion of research into sex differences.
“Building a strong unbiased foundation of literature will help uncover more effective and sex-specific biomarkers for depression onset and target better treatment,” said Georgia Hodes, assistant professor in the School of Neuroscience, part of the Virginia Tech College of Science.

Hodes and co-author Dawson Kropp, a Ph.D. student in neuroscience, reviewed some notable findings since the NIH mandate in an article recently published in the journal Nature Mental Health.

The following are among them:

In addition to discussing the research, the article also addresses the need for pharmaceutical companies to recognize that depression is a heterogeneous disorder and that one pill will not fit all.

In fact, Hodes noted, the issue of women being under researched first garnered public attention when eight out of 10 drugs pulled off the market by the Food and Drug Administration from 1997-2001 were found to pose greater risks of adverse effects to women than to men.

“At a time when other fields of medicine are moving into individualized treatments, taking sex into account should be a no brainer when it comes to mental health,” Hodes said.

Hodes and Kropp propose that future studies go beyond whether there are sex differences — the question researchers have focused on since 2016 — and start asking why there are sex differences and how these differences can help with developing personalized therapeutics.

The authors also address the need to include transgender and intersex populations in studies to better understand how they cluster with the population at large. This research would include investigating how long-term hormonal contraceptive use or hormonal treatments taken by transgender individuals impact mental and physical health.

“If we only use cisgender populations in our clinical studies, we are repeating the same mistakes made by past researchers who included only men,” said Hodes.

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Steven Mackay
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