Sex- biology matters: Did you know that women often experience neurologic diseases differently than men?

Stacey Colino from Neurology Now found that looking through a different lens at biological differences in sex is very important and can have implications for diagnostic approach choices, treatment choices and how future research maybe changing. She said "The idea of studying biological sex as it relates to various diseases has gained recognition in the last two decades, thanks to several trends. In 2001, for example, in a report from the Institute of Medicine titled Exploring the Biological Contributions of Human Health: Does Sex Matter? researchers noted that every cell has a sex, and that sex differences start in the womb and continue throughout life. In 2006, two gender-specific organizations were established—Dr. Legato's foundation and the International Society for Gender Medicine—to promote collaboration among scientists throughout the world to study the ways in which sex affects normal function as well as various diseases. Then in 2016 the National Institutes of Health introduced a policy requiring all scientists requesting funding for research to consider the role of sex as a variable in studies involving cells, animals, and humans.

Noteworthy differences in risk factors, symptoms, and disease progression exist between women and men with many conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and neurologic disorders, says Dr. Legato. “Many diseases are multifactorial at the genetic level, and how genes are expressed is profoundly influenced by sex,” she explains. Scientists continue to gain a better understanding of the anatomical, neurologic, chemical, and functional differences in how various medical conditions affect women versus men, which will lead to improved diagnosis and treatment.

We look at how six neurologic conditions—Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, migraine, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease, and stroke—manifest in women, and how that influences their diagnosis, symptoms, medication, and prognosis."


Colino, S. (2017). Biology Matters: Women often experience neurologic diseases differently than men. That reality has contributed to sex-specific approaches to diagnosis, treatment, and management. Neurology NowJune/July 2017 Volume 13 (issue 3), p 36-41.

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