research funding

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NIH Grants $10M To Help Erase Research Gender Gap, But Is It Enough?

The National Institutes of Health this morning announced it will distribute more than $10 million in grants to help combat a persistent pattern of gender bias in science and medical research. The New York Times reports:

The researchers will use the additional funds to include more human participants — generally women — in clinical trials and to ensure that their laboratory animals, even cell lines, are representative of both genders. The money also will be used to analyze gender differences in the resulting data, officials said.

Dr. Paula Johnson (courtesy)

Dr. Paula Johnson (courtesy)

But a key advocate on the topic, Dr. Paula Johnson, Chief of the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Executive Director for the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology, says this grant represents just a tiny step forward. In this opinion piece, Johnson details some of the critical work still needed order to level the medical research playing field:

Today, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) took a significant step towards improving the health of women by announcing $10.1 million in grants to fund sex-specific medical research. The new funding will allow researchers to better understand the impact sex differences have on disease and thereby more accurately detect and treat illnesses from depression and drug addiction to lung cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest development is welcome news in a recent series of advancements being made to address the sex and gender inequities that persist in biomedical research.

But despite this progress, the evidence of gender disparities in biomedical research, and the impact they have on the health of both women and men, are so remarkable, it is surprising that the problem has not yet been adequately addressed.

Despite the passage of the historic 1993 NIH Revitalization Act that mandated the inclusion of women and minorities in NIH-funded clinical trials, women are still underrepresented; male mice (and other animals) are still predominant in disease studies; the sex of stem cells are not routinely considered in this promising area of research, and research results are still not consistently analyzed and reported by sex. Even more disturbing is that, in light of these facts, women are disproportionately impacted by a number of diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, some forms of lung cancer found in non-smoking women, depression and aspects of cardiovascular disease.

When we lack sex-specific research, we don’t know why. Continue reading

Daily Rounds: Patrick’s Payment Reform Agenda; Lucky HIV Genetics; GOP Cuts To Science; Obesity’s Social Network

Patrick readies a sharply reduced agenda – The Boston Globe “Patrick signaled yesterday that the most ambitious item he wants to pursue in his second term will be reducing health care costs, a goal that is considered the second phase of the state’s universal health care law, which focused initially on extending coverage to the uninsured. If he is successful, Massachusetts would become the first state in the nation to scrap the current health care payment system, in which doctors and hospitals are typically paid a fee for every procedure and visit, and replace it with a system that will essentially put providers on a budget for each patient’s care.” (Boston Globe)

The Lucky Genetic Variants That Protect Some People From HIV : Shots – Health News Blog : NPR (Harvard AIDS researcher Bruce) "Walker and his colleagues…pinpointed genetic variations that change amino acid building blocks in key proteins in the immune system. These differences help explain why some patients can be infected with HIV for decades, never get treatment and yet never progress to AIDS." (npr.org)

Money for Science May Be Scarce With New Congress – NYTimes.com “In the Republican platform, Pledge to America, the party vows to cut discretionary nonmilitary spending to 2008 levels. ..An analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science looked at what would happen if all of the agencies were cut to the 2008 amounts. The National Institutes of Health would lose $2.9 billion, or 9 percent, of its research money. The National Science Foundation would lose more than $1 billion, or almost 19 percent, of its budget, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would lose $324 million, or 34 percent.” (The New York Times)

Obesity rate will rise to 42% of the population based on contagion – latimes.com “Obesity rates in the United States, which some health experts have suggested may be stabilizing at about 34%, will continue to rise until at least 42% of American adults are obese, according to a new model that projects the increase based on "social contagion." The social contagion hypothesis garnered widespread attention in 2007 when researchers…documented that obesity can spread through a social network — just like viruses spread — because people "infect" each other with their perceptions of weight.” (Los Angeles Times)