News FocusBiomedical Research

Of Mice and Women: The Bias in Animal Models

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Science  26 Mar 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5973, pp. 1571-1572
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5973.1571

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In 1993, the U.S. National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act mandated that women and minorities be included in clinical research, because treatments had been shown to have different effects in different populations. A 2001 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report published by the National Academy Press pointed to evidence that the same was true for research using animal models: The sex of the animal can lead to qualitatively different results. Yet because male rodents are cheaper and easier to work with than females, almost nobody uses females in basic research. Earlier this month, at a workshop held on behalf of the IOM's Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders, representatives from academia, journals, funding agencies, and the pharmaceutical industry discussed solutions to this problem of systematic sex bias in animal studies. This bias compromises the safety and effectiveness of drugs in women, they say.

  • * Chelsea Wald is a freelance science writer and editor in New York, New York, and Corinna Wu is a freelance science writer and editor in Oakland, California.

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