MOSCOW, September 23 (RIA Novosti) - The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, will provide some $10.1 million in grants to over 80 scientists' experiments to address the a bias against females in laboratory research, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
"It's an early first step we're taking to encourage people to see the value of studying sex as a biological variable," Dr. Janine Austin Clayton, associate director for women's health research at NIH was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
"What we are after is to transform how people think about science and therefore transform how science is done," she added.
The funds are intended to include more women in clinical trials in addition to a better representation of females in laboratory animals. The grants will also enable researchers to examine gender differences in their results.
"We literally know less about every aspect of female biology compared to male biology," Dr. Clayton explained was a direct result of scientists" favoring the use of male animals and cell lines in their research.
Scientists traditionally tend to conduct single-sex studies excluding females due to concerns that their hormonal cycles could increase variability and make it more difficult for researchers to detect experiment details. As a result, most experiments" results do not represent female effects and responses which can dramatically differ.
According to K.C. Brennan, an assistant professor in neurology at the University of Utah, the use of female lab animals is expensive due to costly measures required to control estrus cycles. However Dr. Brennan stressed that using both genders is essential to fully understanding a disease because, "something that shows up differently in males and females might be a clue to how the disease works."
The large sum of money will support unbiased studies on migraines, stroke, immune responsiveness to vaccines, and molecular differences between the placentas of female and male fetuses, among many others. The funds will also aid a study at the University of Chicago by boosting the number of male and female mice used in an experiment on gender specific methamphetamine abuse.