Are Men and Women Different?

By Shlomo Maital

    Of course men and women are different.  Men are from Mars, right? And women are from Venus (in case you wondered, that dumb saying comes from a book by that name by relationship counselor John Gray).    Wait, not so fast.

     How do men and women differ genetically?   Obviously – female cells contain two X chromosomes, male cells each have one X and one Y.   But that is superficial.  Generically – how do male and female genes differ in general?

     Why does it matter?  It matters a lot.  Men and women get the same medicine, adjusted for weight.  But women often react differently than men.  But how?  Large-scale clinical trials with thousands of men and thousands of women are expensive.  Few drugs are gender specific in clinical trials.

     What about identical twins?  Why not compare their genes?  Problem is, identical twins are both male or female. It would be nice if one were male and one were female.  But this never happens.  No help there.

     Now, there is an answer.  Prof. Benjamin Reubinoff, head of stem cell research at Israel’s Hadassah University Medical Center has succeeded in creating human male and female cells with the same genetic code, from the same person.  This could greatly facilitate study of genetic gender differences, without costly time-consuming clinical trials.  It will enable study of male-female genetic differences in the lab,  and help develop better medicine for women.

    Reubinoff’s cells are stem cells, known as pluripotential (they can become anything).  The researchers work was published in Science.

    Doctoral student Ithai Waldhorn contributed to the study, described in Jerusalem Post by Judy Siegel-Itzkovich.

T    Let me try to explain how this was done.  The blood cells of a man with Klinefelter syndrome was used.  This rare genetic abnormality has two X chromosomes and one Y (XXY).  The blood cell donor in question was one of the few Klinefelter sufferers in the world who also had small numbers of normal male (XY) and female (XX) cells.  The researchers converted the man’s blood cells into stem cells, and then isolated cells genetically — one was male (XY) and one was female (XX).

    I hope and trust the researchers will make their unique cells available to researchers worldwide, to repair the current situation in which women often receive treatments unsuited to their hormones and genetics.