Health Highlights: May 15, 2014

By on May 15, 2014

Health Highlights: May 15, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

NIH Calls for Gender Equality in Lab Research

Scientists must do a better job of including female animals in their lab research, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) warned Wednesday.

In a commentary published in the journal Nature, the NIH said it is telling researchers they must include male and female animals, and female cell lines, to tease out gender differences in their experiments.

NIH officials added that sex balance of study designs will be weighed in the grant approval process, unless the subject of the research is gender-specific, the New York Times reported.

This latest move follows a lengthening trail of evidence that many drugs act differently in men than they do in women.

“Most scientists want to do the most powerful experiment to get the most durable, powerful answers,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, according to the Times. “For most, this has not been on the radar screen as an important issue. What we’re trying to do here is raise consciousness.”

Women now make up more than 50 percent of the subjects in clinical research funded by the NIH, but women are still underrepresented in clinical trials carried out by drug companies and medical device manufacturers, the Times reported.

“One of the underlying assumptions has been that females are simply a variation on a theme, that it isn’t a fundamentally different mechanism, that if you’ve learned about the male you’ve learned enough to deal with both males and females,” Jill Becker, a senior research scientist at University of Michigan who studies gender differences in addiction, told the Times. “We’ve discovered that’s not always the case.”

The new policies will be launched in October, but they are likely to face resistance from the scientific community because of fears about increased costs and more time-consuming methodologies, the newspaper reported.



Strict Patient Protection Guidelines Needed in Brain Research: Report

Stringent guidelines are needed to protect patients participating in brain research, says a new report from the president’s Bioethics Commission.

“Neuroscience research strikes at the very core of who we are,” said panel leader Amy Gutmann. “So the ethical stakes of neuroscience research could not be higher.”

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced $110 million to boost brain research efforts. The ethics panel called for strict rules to safeguard the privacy of patients who take part in these studies, Bloomberg News reported.

Today’s report is the first on brain research expected to be released by the panel. The second will deal with ethical practices among scientists, educators, advocacy groups and other brain research stakeholders.

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