Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, the third leading cause of death in the U.S., was thought to primarily affect men. But in recent years, the number of women with COPD has significantly increased and today more women than men die of COPD. This increase was originally thought to be a latent effect due to the increase in smoking in women in the 1060′s but new research suggests that some other sex effects may be in play.
One of the challenges of uncovering sex differences is sometimes technology. Today, a new technical, computerized method —integrative network inference analysis— is providing new insight into potential mechanisms for sex differences in COPD. Scientists are able to chart different genetic patterns within likely networks for each sex using sputum and blood. Using this technique, researchers at Harvard have identified functionally related sets of genes that are different in women and men with COPD. These methods are beyond the scoop of this writer but the lesson here is that every day researchers are using more and more complex applications to better understand the impact of biological sex on disease.
Sex difference exist in all body systems and the need to support sex inclusive research is critical.