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Here’s What Scientists Are Learning about Women’s Health from Other Female Animals

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Projected on the massive screen behind me onstage, a herd of giraffes rushes across a sweep of savanna. With the video set to loop, the giraffes gallop endlessly, giving me time to slowly lean across the podium and ask my audience: “Did you spot the pregnant giraffes?” I am delivering a plenary lecture at the 2019 Nobel Conference in Stockholm. The theme of that year’s conference was bioinspired medicine—finding solutions in nature to human health problems—and I wanted to call attention to the connections between women and other female animals.

As a cardiologist and evolutionary biologist, I’d been posing this question about the giraffes to medical students in my courses at Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles, for years, so I could tell it had landed as planned. I watched the crowd scan the troop of giraffes for evidence of pregnancy—a baby bump, a lagging mother-to-be. I suspected that few, if any, of the assembled scientists and physicians had considered this question when first taking in the scene. That was precisely my point. Given the…

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