Posted: March 31, 2014
Q: After heart failure, do female hearts remodel themselves differently than do male hearts?
Q: Are there sex-specific effects on the brain from environmental tobacco smoke exposure to inner-city children?
Q: Do women and men perceive genetic risk differently after counseling?
A: "We don't know."
As you read this text, scientists funded by 23 NIH institutes and centers (ICs) are finding the answers. These researchers are taking advantage of a relatively new NIH Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH) program, begun in FY 2013, in which they can add a sex/gender lens to their currently funded research. Through this administrative supplement program, scientists can obtain extra funds to conduct additional studies that do not stray significantly from the scope of their parent grant, but that allow exploration of sex/gender influences not previously considered.
These scientists can add subjects, tissues, or cells of the sex opposite to that used in their parent grant to allow sex-based comparisons. They can add more subjects of one sex to a sample that already includes both males and females in order to increase study power to analyze for a sex/gender difference. Or they can analyze existing datasets containing data from male and female subjects.
With this program, ORWH is trying to accomplish two goals. First, we are expanding the cadre of NIH-funded scientists conducting sex/gender-based research, hoping to identify new connections and areas of biomedical opportunity. Second, we are leveraging funds with our NIH IC partners to maximize the return on investment: Put another way, we are giving already-funded research a second chance to reveal more clues to inform the health of women — and men, girls, and boys.