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Centering the Needs of Transgender, Nonbinary, and Gender-Diverse Populations in Neuroendocrine Models of Gender-Affirming Hormone Therapy

      Abstract

      Most studies attempting to address the health care needs of the millions of transgender, nonbinary, and/or gender-diverse (TNG) individuals rely on human subjects, overlooking the benefits of translational research in animal models. Researchers have identified many ways in which gonadal steroid hormones regulate neuronal gene expression, connectivity, activity, and function across the brain to control behavior. However, these discoveries primarily benefit cisgender populations. Research into the effects of exogenous hormones such as estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone has a direct translational benefit for TNG individuals on gender-affirming hormone therapies (GAHTs). Despite this potential, endocrinological health care for TNG individuals remains largely unimproved. Here, we outline important areas of translational research that could address the unique health care needs of TNG individuals on GAHT. We highlight key biomedical questions regarding GAHT that can be investigated using animal models. We discuss how contemporary research fails to address the needs of GAHT users and identify equitable practices for cisgender scientists engaging with this work. We conclude that if necessary and important steps are taken to address these issues, translational research on GAHTs will greatly benefit the health care outcomes of TNG people.

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