What is Translational Medicine?
Often described as an effort to carry scientific knowledge "from bench to bedside," translational medicine builds on basic
research advances - studies of biological processes using cell cultures, for example, or animal models - and uses them to
develop new therapies or medical procedures.
Translational medicine is becoming ever-more interdisciplinary. For example, researchers need new computational approaches
to deal with the large amounts of data pouring in from genomics and other fields, and as new advances in physics and materials
science offer new approaches to study or diagnose medical conditions.
Science Translational Medicine is being launched to help researchers more efficiently access and apply new findings from many different fields, explained
Bruce Alberts, Science's Editor-in-Chief. Specifically, the journal will serve researchers and management in academia, government,
and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, physician scientists, regulators, policy-makers, investors, business
developers, and funding agencies.
"The new journal should help scientists and engineers work toward bigger-picture goals for improving patient care, by allowing
them to better assimilate information that currently is coming at them from multiple sources," Alberts said. "Too often, information
with the potential to improve human quality-of-life is available only through silo-like channels. For example, cardiologists
who only attend specialized meetings and read the basic cardiology literature, but not the physics or computer science literature,
might miss an important breakthrough that could advance their own research. Science Translational Medicine will help keep
researchers informed about advances across all disciplines."
"Science Translational Medicine will encourage the flow of information from the lab to the clinic - but also from the clinic back to the lab. We believe
that continuous feedback and communication among the diverse players in this system are essential for success," said Editor
Specific Examples of Translational Research
- Harry Dietz and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University found that losartan, a drug already approved in the United States
for use against high blood pressure, can prevent the aortic aneurisms found in mice engineered to have Marfan syndrome, a
genetic disease that affects the body's connective tissue. Losartan has now been tested as a therapy in a group of children
with this syndrome and found to inhibit the development of these potentially deadly abnormalities in the aorta.
- Using sophisticated image processing algorithms, Anant Madabhushi and colleagues at Rutgers University can analyze the texture
in high-resolution MRI medical images to detect and locate early stage prostate tumors. This application of computational
tools to medical imaging yields a more sensitive and reliable technique for clinical application than existing approaches.
- After several decades of unsuccessful efforts to find a vaccine for meningitis B using conventional methods, a research team
led by Rino Rappuoli of IRIS, Chiron S.p.A. in Siena, Italy identified a vaccine candidate using a translational approach
called reverse vaccinology, which involved analyzing the meningococcal genome sequence. Novartis is now testing this candidate
in clinical trials.
- To delay the onset of blindness, many patients with glaucoma must administer eye drops multiple times during the day, a demanding
routine that can prevent effective control of the disease. Erin Lavik at Yale University has developed microspheres containing
the glaucoma drug timolol maleate, which can be injected into one spot in the eye, where the microspheres secrete controlled
amounts of timolol for over a month. This improvement in the way that glaucoma patients receive their medication could lead
to more consistent levels of the drug and better outcomes for the patient.
- Gold nanoparticles or "nanoshells" developed by James Tunnel's group at the University of Texas in Austin can be localized
to cancer cells, allowing detection by fluorescence spectroscopy even when the tumors are quite small. These same particles
can then be activated with strong light to potentially destroy the tumor. This approach combines optical imaging, spectroscopy
and nanotechnology for early cancer diagnosis.
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