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Women’s Health

Here’s Why It’s a Bad Thing For Women’s Health That There Are So Few Women Inventors

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MacArthur Genius and MIT Professor Linda Griffith has built an epic career as a scientist and inventor, including developing a human ear on a mouse.

Now she spends her days deciphering the biological mechanisms underlying endometriosis, a disease in which uterine-like tissue grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis can be brutally painful, is regularly misdiagnosed and misunderstood, and has affected Griffith’s life along with the lives of over 6 million other women in the United States

Griffith’s research and inventions have the potential to dramatically improve women’s health. The problem for women is that she stands out for another reason: she’s feminine.

In 2020, only 12.8 percent of U.S. inventors who were granted patents were women, and in the past male researchers have ignored conditions like endometriosis.

Male researchers tend to downplay or even completely overlook women’s medical needs.

The result is that innovation has mainly focused on what men choose to research. My colleagues John-Paul Ferguson, Sampsa Samila and I show in a newly published study that patented biomedical inventions by women in the US are 35 percent more likely to benefit the health of women than biomedical inventions by men.

Bias by the Numbers

To determine which inventions are female, male, or neutral, we analyzed the title, abstract, and beginning of the summary text of 441,504 medical patents using the National Library of Medicine’s Medical Text Indexer. The indexer uses machine learning to categorize the subject of a text document, including whether it has female or male focus.

Our data shows that inventions by research teams that are predominantly or entirely male are significantly more likely to target the medical needs of men.

In 34 of the 35 years from 1976 to 2010, male-majority teams produced hundreds more inventions that focused on the needs of men than those that focused on the needs of women.

These male inventors were more likely to generate patents that dealt with subjects like “erectile” or “prostate” rather than “menopause” or “cervix”. Male inventors also tended to target diseases and conditions such as Parkinson’s and sleep apnea, which disproportionately affect men.

Conversely, inventions patented by research teams comprised primarily or entirely of women were more likely to be geared towards the needs of women in all of our 35 years of data.

These patents are more likely to cover conditions such as breast cancer and postpartum preeclampsia, as well as conditions that disproportionately affect women such as fibromyalgia and lupus.

In 1976, however, only 6.3 percent of patents were invented by teams of as many women as men. By 2010 it was only 16.2 percent. As a result, while inventions by women were more likely to be women-centric, such patents were rare because so few inventors were women.

We found that from 1976 to 2010, biomedical invention was centered more on the needs of men than women in teams of inventors of all genders.

Our calculations suggest that if there were equal representation of inventors in this period, 6,500 more inventions with a woman focus would have been added. In percentage terms, equal representation would have resulted in 12 percent more inventions aimed at women.

Pay attention to the needs of women

There are also more subtle benefits to having more women inventing. Women inventors are more likely to see how existing treatments for non-gender-specific diseases such as heart attacks, diabetes and strokes can be improved and adapted to the needs of women.

In fact, women are more likely to test whether their ideas and inventions affect men and women differently: For example, whether a drug has more undesirable side effects in women than in men.

In our study, we found that even in narrow disease areas such as atrial flutter, women are more likely to see opportunities to tailor their inventions to the specific health needs of women.

Our results suggest that increasing representation should counteract these invisible distortions.

The growing number of women inventors is starting to fill the gap. In three of the five years from 2006 to 2010, the US granted more patents to women than men.

In fact, since 2010 there has been a boom in women-owned startups developing new and disruptive products for women’s health, from new types of period underwear to smart breast pumps.

Pay attention to the gaps

Increasing the number of women inventors is important to improve women’s health care, but increasing the number of women scientists is not enough.

It is also the case that women scientists are 40 percent less likely to commercialize their research ideas than women scientists. The causes of this gender gap are many, from differences in care to prejudice in the early feedback women receive when trying to commercialize ideas geared towards women.

Regardless of the underlying causes, the result is that although almost 33 percent of the published scientific discoveries in 2010 were created by predominantly female research teams, only 16.2 percent of the patents in the same year were invented by predominantly female inventor teams.

As with the invention, we found that women scientists were 12 percent more likely to benefit women than men’s discoveries, as measured by published research.

At least in the short term, helping women scientists to commercialize their current research should increase the number of women inventors and the number of inventions aimed at women.

In general, our results show how demographic inequalities among those who are allowed to invent lead to demographic inequalities among those who benefit from inventions.

Recent work shows how increasing the number of black doctors benefits black patients and, more generally, the benefits of bringing minority patients together with minority doctors.

This suggests that not only does the world need more inventors like Griffith at MIT, but more inventors like Dr. Patricia Bath, the first black woman to receive a US medical patent.

Bath’s invention of laser cataract removal was inspired by her observation that black Americans are twice as likely to go blind as white Americans.

Whether gender or race, the bias as to who is allowed to conduct research and market inventions is more than a question of the players. It’s also about who benefits from progress.

Rem Koning, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Women’s Health

TBI experience, recovery different in women, men

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December 03, 2021

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Biography / Disclosures

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Biography:
Odette Harris MD, MPH, is Professor of Neurosurgery and Director of Brain Injury at Stanford University School of Medicine. She is also the deputy chief of staff for rehabilitation in the Palo Alto Health Care System of the Veterans Administration and site director of the Center of Excellence for Traumatic Brain Injury.

Disclosure: Harris does not report any relevant financial information.

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Most studies of traumatic brain injuries, particularly those relating to military populations and blast injuries, included primarily or exclusively men.

It’s not uncommon to find papers on traumatic brain injury (TBI) in which only 5% or 1% of the study cohort were female without attempting to analyze whether it was in this small percentage of women compared to the group There were differences as a whole.

Without further information, we may draw erroneous conclusions about the experience and recovery of women with TBI. Our treatment strategies, whether rehabilitative care or neurosurgical emergency procedures, are therefore significantly less evidence-based in female patients than in male patients.

Odette Harris

A few years ago, my colleagues and I carried out a literature search to find out what is known so far about gender differences in TBI (Kim et al.). We found that depression was more common in women than in men. In addition, women were dramatically more likely than men to report somatosensory deficits, including vestibular, oculomotor, and proprioceptive problems related to vision.

A lot more work is needed to understand the nuances behind these results. In particular, we need larger retrospective data sets that include more women, as well as prospective data collection by gender that assesses both brain structure and function.

My neuroscientific colleague Maheen Adamson, PhD, was looking for surrogate markers in the brain that could help us understand the relationship between brain structure and functional changes after TBI. Cortical thickness is one such potential marker, widely used in imaging studies of neurological disease progression, but we don’t yet know how reliable it is in tracking acquired brain injuries like a TBI.

In healthy brains there are gender-specific differences in this marker: women have a cerebral cortex that is about 6% thicker than men. Both men and women experience cortical thinning after a TBI, but imaging studies suggest that female veterans had greater cortical thinning than their male counterparts.

Ideally, we want to see how these physiological changes in the brain correlate with patients’ symptoms and functional outcomes. We are still at the very early stages of this work, but it holds the promise of better understanding and predicting response to treatment.

This work could be transferred to other subpopulations in addition to women – for example to older or younger patients or to certain types of injuries. It’s not that the literature on TBI is untrue, it’s just that it isn’t nuanced enough to ensure the most accurate treatment.

I am pleased that many different disciplines are noticing and addressing this issue. With ongoing efforts, I am optimistic that we can develop a more complete picture of how the brain and brain function of women are affected by TBI so that we can practice truly evidence-based neurosurgery and rehabilitation after brain injury.

Reference:

For more informations:

Odette Harris MD, MPH, is Professor of Neurosurgery and Director of Brain Injury at Stanford University School of Medicine. She is also the deputy chief of staff for rehabilitation in the Palo Alto Health Care System of the Veterans Administration and site director of the Center of Excellence for Traumatic Brain Injury. Harris focuses on collaborative approaches to implementing and optimizing algorithms that aim to improve outcomes in neurosurgical care. She is a National Medical Fellowship for Excellence in Academic Medicine and has received many other awards for her clinical and research work. She is the past president of Women in Neurosurgery and the director of the California Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or position of the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association, unless otherwise stated. This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor. NORA does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, doctors, products or procedures. You can find more information about our website and online content here.

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Opinion | Abortion: The Voice of the Ambivalent Majority

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If you want to know why our policies are so dire, check out our public debates on abortion over the past 72 hours.

Everyone suspects where the Supreme Court is going with regard to Roe v. Wade seems to be steering. But as our policies have become rougher and more combative, many conservatives do not even recognize the problems that have always made this subject so difficult. For example, how do we show appropriate respect and respect for women who become pregnant in dire circumstances? How do we respect women who say, “This is not abstract. This is my body and my private concern? ”What would it look like to ban abortions where the vast majority do not believe that life begins with conception? Many conservatives focus on the fetus to the exclusion of everything else.

On the other hand, many of the progressive comments will not recognize the fetus at all. In the past day or two, I’ve seen progressive abortions referring to just female health care or a completely private choice of what a woman does to her body. Many progressives speak of abortion as if it could not possibly mean the end of a human life.

Right now, in the post-Trump degradation of public life, politicians, propagandists, and activists on this issue are leaving out the tough and complex issues in order to vigorously represent their side. And that’s what we see in issue after issue. The armies of certainty march forward and dominate debate and politics. The rest of us are left behind, hampered by ambivalence. We live in a democracy in which the majority often does not rule.

To a professional expert, I have written remarkably little about abortion because I am so torn. For most of my life, I’ve believed myself to be an election supporter because I didn’t trust that I knew when life began and I didn’t want to impose my views on others. But as with many people, my life has crossed with the topic.

When I was around 19, a friend came home from college and found she was pregnant. She asked me to guide her through the abortion process, which I did. My progressive milieu did not prepare me for the moral and emotional torment she went through before and especially after the abortion. I realized how serious this issue was and the humility with which it had to be approached.

Then came science. Like many people, I have been influenced by the sonograms and how they show a human form in the early stages of the fetus.

I have read many books about human development and what I realize is that things happen in the womb much earlier than we used to think. After 20 or 21 weeks, before what was considered viable, the fetus starts sucking its thumb, moving its eyes, and hearing noises. A female fetus has eggs of its own. These are sobering realities.

Then miscarriages occur. I’ve seen many grieve over miscarriages. I mourned myself. It doesn’t feel like the loss of some cells, but of life.

The experience and the resulting moral sentiments have moved me many levels towards an anti-abortion position. Does that mean I know when life starts That doesn’t seem like the right question anymore. I have come to believe that all people have a piece of themselves that is neither size, shape, color nor weight, but gives them infinite value and dignity, and it is their soul. For me the crucial question is when a living organism becomes a human soul. My intuition is that it is not a moment, but a process – a process shrouded in divine secrets.

Unfortunately, that leaves me in a monotonous political position – with about half of Americans who want to restrict abortion under certain circumstances, but – perhaps because they think it’s impractical or wrong – don’t want to ban it altogether. Third trimester abortions and some second trimester abortions seem increasingly wrong to me, except in exceptional circumstances. But the first trimester? I don’t know, and that’s why I would bow to any woman’s conscience.

Given where the Supreme Court seems to be going, I would endorse the compromise position that Claremont McKenna Professor Jon A. Shields outlined on these pages in October, which could include tightening abortion restrictions after the first trimester.

I think that means I stand up for John Roberts in the current deliberations on the Dobbs v Jackson women’s health organization. He has signaled that he is open to consider whether the court could uphold Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks but not repeal Roe and allow states to enact total or near-total bans. But he can be in a minority.

I used to support the overthrow of Roe because I thought it would be healthy to take the abortion issue out of the courts and back to the state legislatures. I used to think that most states would end up where the nation’s center of gravity was – with restrictions, but not prohibitions.

But we are now trying to tackle a pathetically complex issue in a brutalized political culture. Majorities do not rule in this country; polarized minorities do. The proof of this week is that post-roe politics would make even our current politics seem tame. I’m not sure our democracy is strong enough for that.

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Women’s Health

Embryo donation: One possible path after IVF

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In vitro fertilization (IVF) has made it possible for countless people to have children for decades, often after years of disappointment. It’s a complex process, medically and emotionally. Those who begin an IVF cycle are often focused on the baby they crave. Most hope that one cycle will produce multiple embryos, as more than one embryo transfer is often required to achieve a successful full pregnancy.

Any remaining embryos can offer hope for future pregnancies and more children. But remaining embryos also bring difficult decisions to the fore – if not immediately, then in the following years. The choices a person or couple makes can be broken down into five avenues. One way – donating embryos to another person or couple in the hope of having children – raises many questions. This path and these questions are the subject of this post.

A decision-making path for people who have become parents through IVF

If you became parents through IVF and still have embryos, you are not alone. Estimates of the number of cryopreserved embryos in the United States vary, but it is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands.

You can be among the many people or couples who intend to use their embryos, or those whose family feels complete. And you may start figuring out what to do with your embryos, or you may put the decision on hold, pay for annual embryo storage and feel no urgency to make a decision as embryos can be safely frozen for many years. Having “extras” in the freezer can offer comfort, some sort of psychological insurance after years of disappointment and loss.

However, sooner or later most people will find themselves at a decision point when considering these options:

  • You can dispose of your remaining embryos. This can feel more difficult than you expected, but absolutely doable. You see these embryos as part of the IVF process that made it possible for you to have your beloved child or children. The word “dispose of” sounds harsh, but you are unwilling to raise another child and do not see them as an option to donate them to someone else.
  • You can choose to have another child. Having a larger family wasn’t what you planned or hoped for, but you are seeing additional embryos as part of IVF and a new child than intended. You look at your family and decide it is worth undergoing at least one more embryo transfer before making a final decision about disposal.
  • You can choose to donate your embryos to science. Unfortunately, when you start exploring this you will find that there is no easy way to do it. You may choose to explore other possible avenues or focus on one of the other options.
  • You can donate your embryos to someone else or to a couple. For some it feels natural: they have been given children and want to pass them on to others who long for pregnancy and parenting. For many, however, the decision to donate is neither easy nor natural. Rather, it presents a huge dilemma: you want to honor the embryos and offer them a chance at life, but you have unsettled feelings when you think about your genetic offspring being raised by another family.
  • Not to be decided is to be decided. In listing the options, it is important to acknowledge that some of your IVF colleagues choose not to make up their minds. They are among the many who have “given up” their embryos (the term clinics use for families who avoid contact). You no longer pay storage fees; they do not respond to outreach calls and letters.

What questions arise when you decide to donate embryos to another family?

Author Anna Hecker wrote in TheNew York Times of her own decision about unused embryos: “For me, this far exceeds my discomfort. I see it as a life or death decision that makes it almost impossible to make. ”When couples make that decision, I can testify that this feeling of the” almost impossible “passes over time as people get along with it deal with their choice and arrive at a place of clarity and peace.

Below are some, if not all, of the questions you are likely to encounter while considering embryo donation. If you are part of a couple, these questions can be clarified with your partner. (If you’re single, the choice is yours.)

  • How would we feel if another family raised a child created with our genes?
  • Would it feel okay if we knew the family we are donating to, or could that make it harder to see how our child might have grown up with others as parents?
  • Is that fair to the children involved? How will our children feel when they know that they have full siblings in another family? What will you think of the fact that it was the random choice of an embryologist who determined which embryo ends up in our family and which in another?
  • How will children who come from our donation feel? Will they feel displaced as if they ended up in the wrong family? Maybe it will feel a bit like a science fiction project?
  • How will we perceive possible challenges in the future: Our child will get sick, the family to which we donate will be divorced, we vehemently reject the upbringing style and the values ​​of the other family?
  • If we choose to donate, how should we find a family? Does geography or demographics matter – for example, will it feel good or more complicated to have them around? Should we donate to a same-sex couple, elderly single woman, or others?
  • Do we want to tell family members and friends of our decision to donate our embryos? If so, how much of this information do we share?
  • If there are multiple embryos, do we all donate to the same family or do they share? For those who do not want to discard embryos, it may be important to make sure none are discarded when the receiving family is feeling complete.
  • If our embryos were created using donor eggs and / or sperm cells, should we get permission or consent from the donor? What do we do if we don’t have access to the donor?

These questions are complicated, best done over time and with care. While you may want to make the decision soon so that you can feel closed and move on as a family, I have found that this is one case in life where you move slowly, attend and rethink a decision, accept doubts, and take breaks have to. they all contribute to the fact that you ultimately feel that your decision is the right one.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing offers access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of the last review or update for all articles. No content on this website, regardless of the date, should never be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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