What is Translational Research?The concept of 'translational research' is relatively new, and the scientific community is engaged in vibrant discussions through journals, blogs, opinion pieces, and meetings about the definition and scope of translational research. The original Request for Applications for the CTSA program defined translational research.
Translational research includes two areas of translation. One is the process of applying discoveries generated during research in the laboratory, and in preclinical studies, to the development of trials and studies in humans. The second area of translation concerns research aimed at enhancing the adoption of best practices in the community.
The Continuum of Translational Research
Movement and activity along the spectrum of translational research go both ways. Basic scientists offer findings that result in new tools for use with patients or changes in diagnostic processes, and clinicians make observations that inform research questions in the laboratory. Epidemiologists often translate their findings into health policy, and their findings also inform the work of clinical researchers -- another example of the translational process going both ways.
Examples of Translational Research
- An Emergency Department clinician partners with a comprehensive social support agency and academic sociologist to study the agency's innovative recuperation program for mental health patients, identify opportunities to further reduce emergency department visits, and expand the partnership between the large urban hospital and social support agency.
- An imaging expert patents a new MRI technology, partners with industry to produce it, and collaborates with researchers in a managed care health delivery system to test it.
- A team of university researchers want to explore genetic markers of hypertension. They connect with a team of researchers and a clinical nephrologist who have been analyzing healthcare databases to study the progression of kidney disease. The new team agrees that a similar methodology could be used to create subgroups and prognostic risk scores for hypertensive patients. Finally, the team works with investigators who are developing an emerging biobank resource, giving them the opportunity to collect samples from patients whose records are kept in the same electronic medical record system. With these samples, the team can analyze the DNA and work towards a better understanding of the genetic markers.
- A chronic pain researcher gathers de-identified data about opioid prescription patterns from a managed care organization and finds that there are many patients who have concurrent prescriptions for opioids and sedatives. She collaborates with a substance abuse expert and health services quality researcher to improve clinical decision support regarding prescriptions.
- Dental researchers collaborate with chemists to increase the surface area of silicate-based bioactive glasses that can be used to help bones regenerate or to protect teeth from calcifying.
- Biomedical engineers use immortal cell lines and 3D imaging to analyze seratonin receptors in cells, and their findings inform drug development of selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
- An oncologist and family medicine practitioner collaborate with a rural practice-based research network to gather information about perceptions of cervical cancer screening, informing a subsequent intervention focused on cervical cancer prevention in rural communities.