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They are the driving force of evolution, and in many cases they are fundamental in health and medicine.The study of sex differences is important work, and more of it should be done.In January, Representatives Nita Lowey of New York and Rosa De Lauro of Connecticut wrote to Francis Collins, director of the NIH, expressing concern that women's health was being put at risk because biomedical researchers often prefer to use male animals for experiments. In May, Collins and Janine Clayton, associate director for Research on Women's Health at the NIH, announced in Nature that in all experiments funded by the agency, scientists must use equal numbers of male and female animals or cells and investigate the differences by sex.

Say a scientist wants to test a blood pressure drug.

One group of lab rats (the experimental group) is treated with the new compound, and the other (the control group) receives sugar pills.

But understanding sex differences is much more complex than the NIH mandate would suggest.

Modifying experiments to include both males and females costs money and requires a duplication of time and effort—time that researchers might not have to spare or that might be better spent conducting other research—that is rarely practical or scientifically warranted.

But a new National Institutes of Health policy intended to drive research in sex differences is a major step in the wrong direction.

The policy, which requires NIH-funded scientists to use equal numbers of male and female animals and cells in their studies, is about politics, not science.“The exception will be truly an exception, not the rule,” Clayton stated at a press conference.(Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) On the surface, this rule sounds reasonable enough. In fact, the rule would be a huge waste of resources.After treatment, researchers measure the mean blood pressure in both groups as well as the amount of variation surrounding each mean.The variation around the mean, usually a bell-shaped distribution, is important.He serves on the board of advisers for Scientific American Mind.

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