B4436 - Epigenetic markers of gender domains distinct from biological sex - 27/10/2023

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Julian Christians | Simon Fraser University (Canada)
Dr. Wendy Robinson, Dr. Julia Smith
Title of project: 
Epigenetic markers of gender domains, distinct from biological sex
Proposal summary: 

Sex and gender must be taken into account in health research and the provision of care. While sex refers to biological differences and gender refers to sociocultural effects, these terms are often used interchangeably, and most studies only consider their combined effects in a binary framework comparing two sexes/genders. We aim to develop a tool to distinguish gender from sex using epigenetic markers (chemical alterations to DNA that can be readily measured in biological samples such as blood). This will enable researchers and health care providers to go beyond simply dividing into two groups by sex (male vs female), and will recognize a continuum of masculinity and femininity, relevant to both cis and trans individuals. This tool will improve research into the social determinants of health, and help to tailor health care decisions and interventions to individuals.

Impact of research: 
This research defies paradigms by considering the potential imprint of gender on biology, and by viewing gender as non-binary and made up of multiple domains. The ability to distinguish between biological sex and sociocultural gender would revolutionize health research and clinical practice by allowing us to move beyond a binary view of gender completely confounded by sex. Our index could be used for retrospective samples, where blood samples may be available, but gender-related variables are not. Prospectively, blood samples may be less invasive than surveys for study participants, and less labour-intensive to collect, making it easier to incorporate both sex and gender and to consider multiple dimensions of gender in studies. This in turn would improve understanding of the social determinants of health, identify factors likely to generalize between populations and improve care of gender-diverse people.
Date proposal received: 
Friday, 13 October, 2023
Date proposal approved: 
Friday, 27 October, 2023
Epidemiology, The present study will not examine specific diseases/ conditions, but rather will develop a tool that can be used to examine the relative contributions of sex and gender to a variety of aspects of health (in future work)., Statistical methods, Biological samples -e.g. blood, cell lines, saliva, etc., Biomarkers - e.g. cotinine, fatty acids, haemoglobin, etc., Epigenetics, Sex differences, Gender differences