Th Book On Physiology

Column - Book Review: Sex-Based Differences in Physiology

March 1, 2005
"Principles of Sex-Based Differences in Physiology” (from the series" ;Advances in Molecular and Cell Biology” published by Elsivier, 2004) is an incredible contribution to the literature that is long overdue.

“Principles of Sex-Based Differences in Physiology” (from the series “Advances in Molecular and Cell Biology” published by Elsivier, 2004) is an incredible contribution to the literature that is long overdue. This 300-page scientific volume provides a comprehensive overview of basic differences in the physiology between the sexes. Health-care professionals, scientists, and dental school faculty interested in learning about or updating themselves on physical sex differences to better understand patient care should have this volume on their shelves.

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The book begins with a fascinating foreward relating the “Historical Overview of Advocacy for Research in Sex-Based Biology.” Sherry Marts and Sarah Keitt recount that until the late 20th century, biomedical research and the practice of medicine accepted the “male norm” as representing the species in preclinical and clinical studies. Females were excluded from clinical studies in the vein of protecting them from harm. The “70 kg male” was justified as the research prototype upon which patient care was based, because supposedly the “ovarian cycle” made females difficult to study and the data too complicated and too expensive. No attention was paid to sex in cell and tissue culture systems. Research results from studies that only included men were extrapolated to women and used in treatment guidelines.

During the 1990s, the Society for Women’s Health Research adopted a philosophy to promote research on physiological sex differences in disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. The Society started a campaign of sponsorship to form the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on “Understanding the Biology of Sex and Gender Differences.” The result of the committee was the landmark report, “Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter?” in April 2001.1 It is recommended that the IOM report be read as background to this book.

“Principles of Sex-Based Differences in Physiology” is comprised of 22 comprehensive chapters by as many scientists covering the expected hormonal differences of sexual differentiation as well as hormonal influences on smooth muscle, endothelium, cardiovascular membrane excitability, skeletal muscle function, platelet function, and the developing brain. Other chapters include sex-based substrate metabolism, differences in hypertension and renal injury reflex control of circulation cardiac muscle and remodeling, neuropathies, autoimmunity, and wound healing.

In light of the controversy raised by Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers on lagging progress in science and mathematics of women being related to innate differences between the sexes, it is critical that we educate ourselves about documented differences between males and females. “Principles ...” provides this detailed information thoroughly in a well-organized, well-written volume.

1 2001 Exploring the biological contributions to human health: Does sex matter? Board on Health Sciences Policy. In: Wizemann, TM, Pardue, ML (Eds.) Institute of Medicine, Wash., D.C.

Sharon C. Siegel, DDS, MS

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Dr. Siegel is chair of the Department of Prosthodontics at the Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry at the University of Maryland Dental School, and an associate member of the graduate faculty at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. You may contact Dr. Siegel at [email protected].