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Is it sexism to use only male mice in your experiment?

“The search for a dementia cure is leaving millions of women behind because research into the condition focuses on men, say campaigners.” How are they doing that? By using only male mice in the experiments. The article doesn’t say why that is so I hit Google for some possible answers. It seems that there are quite a few differences between the sexes in mice that can actually impact the outcomes.

I found one article that gave an example, “One day in the 1950s, Stanley Cohen placed a small piece of mouse salivary gland in culture next to a ganglion. When he returned, he found massive nerve growth. By chance, Cohen had grabbed a male mouse for the experiment. Cells in its salivary glands are 10 times more androgen-responsive than those in females. Cohen has said that if he had used a female the response would have been much less, and he wonders if he would have made the crucial association that led to the identification of nerve growth factor – and ultimately to his sharing the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.” (https://www.the-scientist.com/uncategorized/why-sex-matters-in-mouse-models-46346)

I found another article that was headlined, “Requiring medical researchers to test males and females in every experiment sounds reasonable, but it is a bad idea” and went on to explain, “The study of sex differences is important work, and more of it should be done. 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. ” (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/testing-males-and-females-in-every-medical-experiment-is-a-bad-idea/)

In the end the article leaves me still not knowing if the campaigners have a point or not. I think it comes down to if there really are sex differences in dementia sufferers that make a difference in the treatment of the disease. Using both kinds of mice just to do so doesn’t make sense. Doing so out of a knowledge of the differences as it relates to the disease does.

Also, it probably occurred to you that this all highlights quite sharply that there ARE sex differences between men and women. That is something that seems to get lost in our modern world and when found gets pushed to the side.

Campaigners say research into dementia could be biased in favour of men. with scientists focusing on male lab mice, which ignores subtle differences between the sexes mirrored in humans.

Source: ‘Dementia research is sexist’ because it focuses on male mice

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