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NIH Gives $10.1 Million for Gender Equality in Trials

Update Date: Sep 23, 2014 09:25 AM EDT

Over the past few years, experts have been criticizing the sex bias that exists in clinical trials. The experts pointed out that men are more likely than women to be recruited and subsequently studied in these trials even though women suffer from the same diseases.

In order to combat gender inequality, the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) has decided to give researchers $10.1 million in additional funding. Researchers that get the extra money will have to actively consider the participants' sex in their preclinical and clinical studies.

"This funding strategy demonstrates our commitment to moving the needle toward better health for all Americans, while helping grow our knowledge base for both sexes and building research infrastructure to aid future studies," Dr. Janine Austin Clayton, NIH associate director for women's health research, said in an NIH news release according to HealthDay. "The scientists receiving these awards have approached their research questions with fresh thinking, and are looking for innovation and discovery through a new lens."

The money has been distributed across 82 projects. The focus of these projects includes basic immunology, heart physiology, neural circuitry and behavioral health. With this extra funding, these trials must include men and women. Preclinical trials tend to include one gender.

"[This way] it reduces variability, and makes it easier to detect the effect that you're studying," said Abraham A. Palmer, an associate professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago according to the New York Times. "The downside is that if there is a difference between male and female, they're not going to know about it."

In order to do so correctly, these trials will have to fulfill one of three aspects. The first one is to use animals, tissues or cells of the opposite sex so that they can make comparisons based on sex. The second element is to add more men and women to a sample so that they can further analyze data based on sex. The last one is to analyze existing data that have information on both sexes.

"By making strategic investments that incorporate sex into existing funded studies, we are paving the way for researchers to better understand when sex matters in their research," Dr. James Anderson, director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, which oversees the NIH Common Fund, said.

The NIH hopes that this move to add more funding will encourage researchers to examine gender as a factor in their studies.

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