The Women’s Health Research Institute at Northwestern University has taken a new approach to understanding women’s health by launching the Illinois Men’s Health Registry.
“To better understand women’s health, we need to understand sex differences,” said Dr. Teresa K. Woodruff, director of the Institute at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “That means looking at both men and women, designing studies to look at sex differences and reporting those differences by sex.”
Dr. Woodruff also is a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.
To address the traditional lack of inclusion of women in clinical studies that affect both sexes, the Institute created the Illinois Women’s Health Registry, which has matched more than 1000 women to clinical studies across Illinois. Now they want to increase the inclusion of men in sex differentiating studies with the new the Illinois Men’s Health Registry.
Modeled after the female version, the purpose of the new men’s registry is to help researchers learn more about the factors that affect men’s health so new treatments can be tailored to male needs. Other goals are to improve the prevention of disease and health conditions prevalent in men and provide the latest information on men’s health to its members.
These two registries created at Northwestern are novel because they do not focus on a particular disease, as do many existing registries. Instead, the Institute’s registries invite healthy individuals to help scientists learn more about chronic conditions, lifestyle behaviors and sex differences, and how they affect men and women differently. Many participants are asked to be healthy controls for studies that address specific conditions.
The de-identified data garnered from the men’s registry will be used to find men who match eligibility requirements of current research studies and clinical trials. Men who match will be invited to participate in approved studies that advance men’s health and knowledge about sex differences.
The registry data is completely confidential, protected by the same level of security used in medical data systems. An individual’s personal information is never shared with any physicians, insurers or vendors. The Illinois Men’s Health Registry can be accessed at http://mensregistry.northwestern.edu.
Understanding sex differences is an important factor in precision medicine. Northwestern’s Women’s Health Research Institute has been a strong advocate for sex inclusion at the local and national level and has participated in National Institutes of Health sponsored workshops that are exploring better ways to include sex as a variable in cell, animal, and human studies.
“Before personal and precision medicine becomes a reality, we must have a clear understanding of the basic physiological differences between the sexes,” said Dr. Woodruff, who also is the Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Feinberg.