IOM Report Calls on Researchers to Examine Gender Disparities
Men and women differ in both physiological and chemical ways, and scientists need to take these differences into account when analyzing research results, according to a new
Institute of Medicine report.The New York Times reports that the 16-member panel found that researchers tend "to view men as the norm or the standard," and often do not know whether the cells or tissues they are using in experiments come from men or women. However, sex differences play a role in a number of diseases and disease-related factors, including the incidence and severity of heart disease, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses. In addition, women's menstrual cycles may cause them to respond differently to drug treatments. The panel stated that since the cells of males and females contain "many basic biochemical differences" that stem from genetic disparities, researchers should analyze sex differences at the cellular and molecular levels. Some other panel recommendations are included below:
- Because "every cell has a sex," researchers should study the sex differences in cells from all over the body, not just the reproductive system.
- Researchers should determine and disclose whether cells or tissue cultures in experiments came from male or female patients or animals.
- Women should be included in the clinical trials of drugs, and scientists conducting these experiments should note female participants' menstrual cycles and whether they have reached menopause.
- Editors of scientific journals should encourage researchers to analyze their study results by sex "whenever possible."
To read a copy of the report, go to http://www.nap.edu/books/0309072816/html/.
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