The biology of sex differences deals with the study of the disparities between females and males and the related biological mechanisms. Gender medicine focuses on the impact of gender and sex on human physiology, pathophysiology and clinical features of diseases that are common to women and men. The term gender refers to a complex interrelation and integration of sex–as a biological and functional determinant–and psychological and cultural behaviours (due to ethnical, social or religious background). The attention to the impact of gender differences on the pathophysiology and, therefore, on the clinical management of the most common diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases (CVD), neurodegenerative disorders, immune and autoimmune diseases as well as several tumours, is in fact often neglected. Hence, studies covering different fields of investigation and including sex differences in the pathogenesis, in diagnostic and prognostic criteria as well as in response to therapy appear mandatory. However, prerequisites for this development are preclinical studies, including in vitro and in vivo approaches. They represent the first step in the development of a drug or in the comprehension of the pathogenetic mechanisms of diseases, in turn a necessary step for the development of new or more appropriate therapeutic strategies. However, sex differences are still poorly considered and the great majority of preclinical studies do not take into account the relevance of such disparities. In this review, we describe the state of the art of these studies and provide some paradigmatic examples of key fields of investigation, such as oncology, neurology and CVD, where preclinical models should be improved.

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