Why is some medicine less effective on women? Over 75% of lab animals are male.

Men.

‌'Sup, totally natural group of friends captured candidly. Photo via iStock.‌

We have it pretty good. Especially when it comes to our health.


Not only do we get to write the health care legislation...

‌Hell yeah. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Getty Images.‌

...but increasingly, we're getting all the good medical treatment.

We can thank lab animals for this — and the researchers who study them.

For a long time, researchers believed that male animals were better for trials of new medicine.

It was widely assumed that hormone cycles in females would screw up the results.

As a result, currently, over 75% of all lab animals are male.

‌The problem with lady mice is it seems you can't experiment on 'em without them getting all in their feeeeelings. Amiright? Photo by China Photos/Getty Images.‌

The problem is, when you test primarily on male animals, you're making medicine that's more likely to be effective for, well, men.

At least, that's what a recent study found.

According to a report in New Scientist, researcher Natasha Karp and a team from the U.K.'s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute studied tens of thousands of mice of both sexes. They found that when you switch off genes in male mice, the mice express different traits then when you switch off the same genes in female mice.

If genes express themselves differently depending on the sex of the animal, the researchers found, so do some genetic diseases.

Gene therapy: rad as hell. Photo by Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images.‌

The team concluded that "drugs optimized for male animals may be less effective in females, or even cause harm." Of the 10 drugs that were pulled from the market between 1997 and 2001, they explained, eight were riskier for women.

Male animal-bias also means drugs that work better for women might not even make it into testing to begin with.

As with the debate over what constitutes an "essential" health care benefit (according to some hi-larious U.S. senators, mammograms shouldn't), when it comes to "who constitutes a full human," it appears men are the considered default setting, while women are an afterthought.

‌We're the default! We're the default! Photo via iStock.‌

It's a pretty sweet gig for us men.

The thing is, women are half of us. We like them.

As fully formed human beings with lives, free will, hopes, dreams, and so on, it'd be nice if medicine worked better on them when they got diseases.

There's been some progress toward making medical experiments more equitable, at least where human subjects are concerned.

Clinical trials (on humans) used to involve pretty much no women. Now most are 30-40% female, though that still means women are underrepresented.

This wax head in an MRI machine is genderless, but hey, a woman is putting it there! Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images.‌

Thanks to efforts of researchers like Karp and her team, we now know we need to extend that progress to the animal kingdom as well.

"Unless there’s a really good reason not to, we should be using both sexes in biomedical research," Karp told New Scientist.

Male animals, she argued, have traits just as particular as female hormone cycles that make them similarly varied from an ideal "norm."

Ultimately, more comprehensive research benefits us all — men and women.

Better studies lead to more effective medicine, which leads to less sickness and sadness all around.

That's the hope anyway.

The animals of both genders who turn out to help us out with this project deserve a hearty "thank you."

‌Thanks, buds. Photo via iStock.‌

If we start with equal treatment, we might finally get some equal treatment.

Heroes
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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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