David Page, Director of the Whitehead Institute and professor of biology at MIT, has helped to shape modern genomics and mapped the Y chromosome. And he’s here to say, “Human genome, we have a problem.”
Page contends that medical research is overlooking a fundamental fact with the assumption that male and female cells are equal and interchangeable in the lab, most notably because conventional wisdom holds that the X and Y chromosomes are relevant only within the reproductive tract.
But if the sexes are equal, why are women more likely than men to develop certain diseases, and vice versa? The fact is that certain disorders affect men and women differently. Women, for instance, are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, while men are more likely to have autism. Yet, the reason behind these differences remains unclear.
“Since the late 1940s, differences in male and female manifestations of disease have been attributed to differences in circulating sex hormones,” Page says. “Maybe that’s not the whole story. What about these other genes on the sex chromosomes with no obvious role in sex differentiation? What if the genetic basis of sex differences in disease is staring us in the face?”
David’s compelling talk from TEDxBeaconStreet explores these important questions and unveils a novel approach to understanding the sex-based determinants of disease severity and susceptibility.