Reference Centre for gender medicine

Director: Dott.ssa Alessandra Carè
telefono: (+39) 06 4990 2411
mail: alessandra.care@iss.it

 

Activity

Gender medicine or, better, gender-specific medicine, deals with the biological differences between the two sexes as well as the more properly gender differences linked to socio-economic and cultural conditions and their influence on the state of health and disease, representing a fundamental point of interest for the National Health Service (NHS). Differences between men and women, in fact, are observed both in the frequency and in the symptomatology and severity of numerous diseases, in the response to therapies and adverse reactions to drugs, in nutritional needs and in responses to nutrients and chemicals present in the environment as well as in lifestyles, exposure to toxicants and access to care.

A gender approach in clinical practice allows to promote the appropriateness and personalization of care generating a virtuous circle with consequent savings for the National Health Service. International agencies and institutions, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN), have promoted this new approach to medicine by suggesting the adoption of policies aimed at developing new preventive, diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic health strategies that take into account the differences between men and women not only in biological and clinical terms,  but also cultural and socio-psychological.
With the approval of Law 3/2018 "Application and dissemination of Gender Medicine in the National Health Service" published in the Italian Official Gazette of 31-01-2018, for the first time in Europe, the inclusion of "gender" in all medical specialties, in the clinical trial of drugs (in Article 1) and in the definition of diagnostic-therapeutic pathways, in research, training and dissemination to all health professionals and citizens is guaranteed  (in art. 3). The ISS, and in particular the this Centre, will be involved in monitoring the actions and results obtained at national level through the establishment of an observatory. The ISS, together with the other bodies supervised by the Ministry of Health, will act as a guarantor of the reliability and appropriateness of the data collected, which will be reported annually by the Minister of Health to the Chambers.
In view of the above, the main objectives of Centre are:

 

  • development of training and dissemination activities related to this innovative aspect of medicine
  • development of a network of Italian centres that deal with gender medicine and expansion of the same at European level
  • promotion of research for the identification of the pathophysiological bases responsible for the observed gender differences

 

Organization

The structure is divided into 2 Units: Gender-specific pathophysiology and Prevention and gender health that will have the task of carrying out institutional activities, research activities and educational and training activities within the gender medicine.

UNITS

Gender-specific pathophysiology

Director: Dr. Elena Ortona
phone: (+39) 06 4990 2573
mail: elena.ortona@iss.it

Gender-specific pathophysiology represents a central aspect of gender medicine to be included in the new vision of a medicine that uses increasingly targeted and personalized therapies for the individual patient. The identification of the pathophysiological bases responsible for the biological differences related to sex and­ socio-cultural linked to gender represents a fundamental step towards a real progress that combines greater therapeutic efficacy with fewer toxic effects. The area includes about 26 staff including researchers and technicians with multiple proven skills ranging from the identification of gender-specific biomarkers, to the study of the mechanisms underlying the differences between men and women in cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, the onset and progression of tumors, as well as susceptibility to infections and the response to vaccines. The different projects will benefit from the coordinated and complementary work of the different research units belonging to the Center and from the collaboration with some ISS units outside the Centre, already involved in gender medicine studies. The institutional role of the ISS and the experimental results hopefully obtained will allow us to participate in the development of health policies and support the development of personalized clinical applications in a gender orientation.

 

Prevention and gender health

Director: Dr. Roberta Masella
phone: (+39) 06 4990 2544
mail: roberta.masella@iss.it

Biological differences related to sex determine different nutritional needs and a different metabolic response to nutrients and exogenous substances taken with food; at the same time, socio-economic and cultural conditions, which define gender, influence the individual's lifestyle, exposure to environmental risk factors and the possibility of access to care.

The Unit includes 30 staff distributed among researchers and technicians with proven experience with scientific and biomedical skills. These skills, diversified and complementary, allow the carrying out of both basic and translational research activities on nutritional and toxicological aspects, as well as communication, dissemination and training aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles and overcoming gender differences in access to care.

The Unit studies gender/sex influences on mutual interactions between nutrients and genes capable of modulating gene expression, intracellular signaling pathways and, consequently, the functionality of tissues and organs.

In particular, the relationships between diet, adipose tissue function and the development of obesity, chronic-degenerative and immune-mediated diseases are studied. In addition, the effects of different diets on clinical, metabolic and inflammatory markers, both plasma and tissue, are studied, with the ultimate goal of expanding the knowledge of molecular nutrition and defining, in accordance with the principles of personalized medicine, diversified dietary interventions for women and men.

In the toxicological field, both the mechanisms of action and interaction between chemicals and genes and the association between exposure and pathologies are also studied with in vitro and in vivo experimental models.