This article is intended to illuminate several important changes in our concept of gender-specific medicine in the genomic era. It reviews the history of gender-specific medicine, pointing out the changes in our perception of the nature of biological sex and our expanding knowledge of how it affects the phenotype. The old debate about 'nature versus nurture' is now largely resolved; the two are inextricably intertwined as a result of epigenomic regulation of gene expression; many of the resulting phenotypic changes are inherited and affect future generations. More accurate, rapid and cheaper methods of editing genomic composition are implementing a more sophisticated understanding of how genes function and how individual components of the genome might be added or eliminated to maintain health and prevent disease. As Venter predicted, the new discipline of synthetic biology, based on the creation and use of novel 'designer' chromosomes is an inevitable expansion of our ability to decipher the naturally occurring genome and the factors that control its expression. As we move with unexpected and stunning rapidity into our exploration and manipulation of the genetic code, our investigations must acknowledge the solidly established fact that biological sex will have a profound impact on the interventions we have made and will make in the future. Unfortunately, in spite of the recent urging of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that sex be included as an essential variable in all levels of scientific investigation, genuine issues remain to be resolved before all scientists accept not only the importance of doing this, but also how to implement it.
- Synthetic biology
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