Meet the woman paving the way for gender-specific medical treatments
MANILA, Philippines – Men and women have different hormonal makeups. Therefore, medicine or treatment that might work well on men won't work so well on women.
That is the belief of US-based startup Dot Labs, headed by its 31-year-old CEO and founder, Heather Bowerman – a biomedical engineer from the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard University.
Dot Labs' overarching belief is that if the hormonal differences between genders are recognized, better treatment options could be afforded.
It's this belief that got Bowerman into MIT Technology Review's "35 Innovators Under 35" list for 2016, the magazine's annual celebration of young leaders and thinkers poised to make noise in their respective fields.
"There are significant differences in the ways that men and women experience many diseases and drugs, and until this problem is solved, women will be forced to make do with therapies that may be of limited benefit," said Bowerman in the profile by MIT Technology Review.
In the field of cardiovascular health, the Review mentioned that plaque build-up is different in men and women because of hormonal differences. Yet, most new treatment tests are performed on men. The general effect: death rates from the illness have declined faster among men than women.
How can Bowerman and her lab address the claimed imbalance one day? By providing detailed hormonal data to medical health providers, the hope is that they'll be able to concoct tailor-made drugs and treatment for women.
In order to harvest the hormonal data – a "neglected crucial metric in women's health," said Bowerman in a Bloomberg interview – the company is looking to make hormonal testing almost as easy as, say, using an over-the-counter pregnancy test.
In Dot Labs' case, saliva is being looked at as the body fluid of choice. A patient spits into a tube and mails the tube to Dot Labs, which in turn, delivers the results through an app for the woman or her doctor to review.
The hope is that by making the hormonal information more accessible than ever, healthcare providers will be able to create better drugs and develop new treatment regimens faster.
Currently, Dot Labs' research is focused on women's diseases such as endometriosis, a condition where the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of it. It could have an adverse effect on a woman's fertility and menstrual cycle, among others.
"10% of women have it," Bowerman noted.
With the cheap and easy hormonal testing that Dot Labs wants to provide, the diagnosis for endometriosis could be shortened to a day – way faster than the current 11 years it takes to diagnose, according to a Facebook post by MIT Technology Review.
A more complete product along with reports on its efficacy are set for release in 2017. If successful, the product has the potential to branch off to other gender-specific treatments ("precision medicine," Bowerman calls it) that are hopefully more potent than current gender-blind procedures. – Rappler.com