Let's Talk About Sex-Biological Sex Is Underreported in Biomaterial Studies

Adv Healthc Mater. 2021 Jan;10(1):e2001034. doi: 10.1002/adhm.202001034. Epub 2020 Oct 11.


Precision medicine aims to better individualize healthcare. It requires that biomaterials be designed for the physiological characteristics of a specific patient. To make this a reality, biomaterials research and development must address differences of biological sex. More specifically, biomaterials should be designed with properties optimized and appropriate for male and female patients. In analyzing research articles from seven prominent biomaterials journals, sex as a biological variable is missing from an overwhelming majority of in vitro biomaterial studies. From the survey, the reporting of the sex of primary cell cultures happened only 10.3% of the time. Contributing to this trend is that commercial vendors bias cell lines toward one sex or another by not disclosing information of cell line sex at the time of purchase; researchers do not communicate this pertinent information in published studies; and many journal policies have little to no requirements for reporting cell line characteristics. Omitting this valuable information leads to a gap in the understanding of sex-specific cell-biomaterial interactions and it creates a bias in research findings towards one sex or another. To curb this concerning trend and make precision biomaterials a reality will require the biomaterials field to "talk about sex" by reporting cell sex more broadly.

Keywords: cell-material interactions; hormones; patient-specific; precision biomaterials; sex differences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male


  • Biocompatible Materials