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Females Overlooked in Basic Surgical Research

Five major journals adopt sex reporting requirements

MONDAY, Sept. 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Female animals or cells are rarely used in surgical research studies, even though sex differences can have a major impact on medical research, according to a study published in the September issue of Surgery.

Melina Kibbe, M.D., professor of surgical research at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues analyzed more than 600 studies that included animal or cell research and were published in the journals Annals of Surgery, American Journal of Surgery, JAMA Surgery, Journal of Surgical Research, and Surgery from 2011 to 2012.

Twenty percent of the studies that used animals did not specify the sex of the animals. In studies that did state the sex of the animals, 80 percent used males, 17 percent used females, and 3 percent used both. Seventy-six percent of the studies that used cells did not specify the sex. In those that did state the sex, 71 percent used male cells, 21 percent female cells, and 7 percent used cells from both sexes.

The finding has prompted the editors of five major surgical journals to require study authors to report the sex of animals and cells used in their research. If they use only one sex, they will have to explain why. "Women make up half the population, but in surgical literature, 80 percent of the studies only use males," study senior author Melina Kibbe, M.D., said in a Northwestern news release. "We need to do better and provide basic research on both sexes to ultimately improve treatments for male and female patients," she added.

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