• By Sara Tiner

Science Saturday: Researchers find widespread sex bias in molecular biology tools

July 10, 2021
Scientists examined DNA gel that is used in genetics, medicine, biology, pharma research and forensics.

Widely used sex-biased maps of molecular biology are holding back individualized medicine, say Mayo Clinic scientists.

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Maps clarify how places are connected.  In biology, the same is true for databases that map out how aspects of biology are connected. Different biological databases examine genes (genomics), how those gene instructions are read (transcriptomics), what is made from the gene instructions (proteomics), and how that gene product breaks down in the body (metabolomics). Called omics for simplicity, these mapping tools are routinely used in biomedical research to understand what is happening on a molecular and cellular level in normal and disease states.

While extremely useful for researchers, a Mayo Clinic-led commentary published in Nature Methods found that relying on omics tools can introduce bias related to sex differences that could contribute to misleading results.

"These tools leverage databases that summarize all known molecular interactions, the vast majority of which were discovered using male-biased study designs," says Kamila Bond, first author of the study. She is a member of the Mathematical Neuro-Oncology lab at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, led by Kristin Swanson, Ph.D., a mathematical oncologist.

While these tools are extremely popular, Bond says, the default male standard fails to account for the fundamental sex differences between males and females in biology. 

Read the rest of the article on Discovery's Edge.

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Other Mayo Clinic medical research websites: