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.
Metabolomics examines an organism’s metabolite profile (= metabolome). This profile adapts itself to the respective living conditions and throws light on which metabolic paths are active at a specific time and under specific conditions. As part of a genome-wide associative study, scientists analyze the genome (= the entirety of the genes in an organism) of a large number of volunteers and link this data with diseases that the volunteers taking part in the study are known to have. In this way, scientists can recognize genetic patterns that are associated with different diseases.The combination of genetics and metabolomics provides insight into the causes and progression of specific diseases. This allows new therapeutic approaches and drugs to be developed and also enables markers to be found for the early recognition of diseases such as diabetes.
Original publication: Mittelstrass K. et al. (2011) Discovery of sexual dimorphisms in metabolic and genetic biomarkers. PLoS Genetics. Link to specialist publication
Dr. Kirstin Mittelstraß
As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 1,900 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich on a 50-hectare research campus. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 17 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 31,000 staff members. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de
For more than 20 years, the Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg (KORA) has been examining the health of thousands of citizens in Augsburg and environs. The aim of the project is to increase understanding of the impact of environmental factors, behaviour and genes on human health. The KORA studies focus on matters relating to the development and progression of chronic diseases, in particular myocardial infarction and diabetes mellitus. To that end, research is conducted into risk factors arising from lifestyle factors (including smoking, diet and exercise), environmental factors (including air pollution and noise) and genetics. Questions relating to the use and cost of health services are examined from the point of view of health services research. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/kora
By bringing together experts from the field of diabetes research, the German Centre for Diabetes Research (DZD) dovetails basic research, epidemiology and clinical applications. Members of the association are the German Diabetes Centre (DDZ) in Düsseldorf, the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DifE) in Potsdam-Rehbrücke, the Helmholtz Zentrum München – the German Research Centre for Environmental Health, the Paul Langerhans Institute of the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital in Dresden and the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen as well as the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Scientific Community and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. The aim of the DZD is to resolve unanswered questions relating to diabetes research through an innovative, integrative research approach and to make a substantial contribution towards improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes mellitus. www.dzd-ev.de
Contact for media representatives
Sven Winkler – Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Ingolstädter Landstrasse 1, 85764 Neuherberg – Tel.: +49 89-3187-3946 – Fax +49 89-3187-3324 – E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Thomas Illig – Helmholtz-Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Ingolstädter Landstrasse 1, 85764 Neuherberg – Tel.: +49 89-3187-4249 – Fax +49 89-3187-4567 – E-Mail: email@example.com