Women's health research gets federal and local boost

Women's health research got a federal and local boost with the declaration of a national Women's Health Research Day to coincide with the 2nd Annual Symposium on Sex Inclusion in Biomedical Research on Jan. 25.

This event celebrates the second anniversary of the implementation of the landmark policy set forth by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) requiring investigators to consider sex as a biological variable. That means scientists have to include female cells or female animals in their grant proposals, which was rarely done in the past.

The symposium is hosted by the Women's Health Research Institute at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in collaboration with Northwestern's Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. The symposium will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Prentice Women's Hospital, 250 E. Superior St., on the Chicago campus.

"For the first time as a nation we are focusing on women's health research, which will lead to healthier outcomes for women in the future," said Teresa Woodruff, director of the Women's Health Research Institute, who was a strong national advocate for the NIH policy change. "This will improve all the drugs that are developed for men and women. It's the beginning of a research transformation. "

Woodruff also is the Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Feinberg and dean of The Graduate School at Northwestern.

Congressional resolutions in both the House and Senate will be introduced recognizing Jan. 25 as Women's Health Research Day, led by Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel declares Jan. 25 Women's Health Research Day in Chicago.

Even for disease prevalent in women, researchers have used predominantly male cells and male animals for their studies. As a result, numerous drugs were removed from the market by the FDA because of serious side effects in women.

This year's theme, "A Spotlight on Autoimmunity," will feature lectures from national experts in sex-based immunology. The symposium also will feature a panel discussion on the state of sex-inclusive science and research poster presentations.

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