Giving Compass' Take:
- Futurity highlights how researchers are studying the role of sex in the efficacy of vaccines that use nanomedicine, including some COVID-19 vaccines, which seem to work better for men.
- How can sharing sex-specific limitations of studies and conclusions benefit everyone? What can donors do to advocate for systemic changes in the way nanoparticles are studied?
- Read about COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the United States.
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If there’s one take-home message for the general public about the coronavirus vaccines approved in the US, it’s that they are remarkably effective.
But Michigan State University’s Morteza Mahmoudi is raising awareness about an important subtlety: The vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech appear to work slightly better for males than for females.
Both vaccines use tiny orbs, or nanoparticles, to deliver their active ingredients to cells in our immune systems. For years, Mahmoudi has been studying how and why nanomedicines—therapies that use nanoparticles—can affect patients differently based on their sex and he believes this could be a factor with the vaccines.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has also drawn attention to sex differences because its rare blood-clotting side effect has affected predominantly female recipients. The J&J vaccine, however, uses modified adenoviruses rather than nanoparticles to help teach our immune systems to fight off the coronavirus. That said, Mahmoudi has shown in earlier work that viruses can transfect the cells of males and females differently.
Now, he’s focusing on the nanomedicine component. He’s published three peer-reviewed papers calling attention to the role of sex in nanomedicine studies, both in general and as they relate to coronavirus vaccines.
“We need to monitor these sex differences and report them to the scientific community and the public,” says Mahmoudi, an assistant professor in the radiology department and the Precision Health Program. “It can be very helpful in developing future strategies and as we prepare for future threats.”
To develop those future strategies, researchers must better understand what causes patients of different sexes to respond differently to nanomedicines, Mahmoudi says. To that end, Mahmoudi is advocating for systemic changes in how nanoparticles are used and studied in medicine with an article in the journal Nature Communications.
Read the full article about COVID vaccine sex differences at Futurity.