It's hard to believe that only a little over two decades ago, the U.S. government issued guidelines recommending that pharmaceutical companies exclude women of childbearing age from participating in clinical trials. Now the National Institutes of Health has an office devoted to women's health research, and more women are being included in critical medical research.

That is progress, to be sure. But it has become increasingly clear that to improve medicine for both men and women, more also needs to be done to study differences between the sexes. For too long, the research community has ignored the fact that being male or female encompasses far more than reproductive systems and hormones. Sexually determined characteristics can be found all the way down to the cellular level, and they have important implications that influence how long we live, how we are affected by disease and medication, and even how our brains function....

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