Biomedical research questions

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 29 January 2017


See also Critical appraisal | Evidence-based health care | Open access | Scholarly publishing and communication | The scientific journal

...traditionally, the medical journal has been used by both clinicians and researchers as the preferred vehicle for keeping up with the latest developments ... the contents of medical journals have been systematically indexed for more than 100 years. The role of the journal in the biomedical communication cycle is self-evident, and that role has been expanded profoundly by automated information retrieval."
Brandon & Hill's Selected list of books and journals for the small medical library. Bull Med Lib Assoc. 1985;73:(2):176–205.
  • Biomedical research deals with a range of beliefs and / or theories which can be either proven or disproven through clinical studies
  • Before any human being participates in a clinical trial, biomedical researchers must first do animal studies whose living systems most closely represent humans; new interventions must be tested for efficacy and safety
  • Over time, the evidence or knowledge base changes drastically in medicine; what doctors thought 100 or 200 years ago seems silly now
  • Science is a continual stream of ideas reshaped, added to, subtracted from, and built on newer ones
  • Science is, and always has been, concerned about predictability; the ability to predict how we deal with human diseases is central to Western medicine
  • Most medical advances are because bench-related/animal research (preclinical research) have led us to discover new drugs and treatments; experimentation is critical to unlocking clues to curing disease
  • Humans now live an additional 20.8 years because of biomedical research
  • As knowledge in biomedicine grows, the number of articles grows; complexity of literature increases
  • Biomedical research starts with unanswered questions; important information is collected, studied and analyzed; solutions are proposed that help direct researchers to solutions
  • In vitro tests (literally means “in glass”) Biomedical research scientists use the term when referring to any biological process or reaction that takes place in an artificial environment using tissues or cells; most useful during early research to study single effect of a substance in isolation
  • Nonhuman animal models provide reliable and complete data on the functioning of a living system, and offer indicators of how humans might react to new drugs or medical procedures
  • Human studies involve taking laboratory data on safety and effectiveness of new vaccines or medicines and evaluating them in carefully staged clinical trials using human volunteers
  • Epidemiological studies another type of study that looks at distribution of diseases across populations
  • Examples of basic research contributing to human health:
    • Early Vaccines: In the 18th century, outbreaks of infectious diseases such as cholera, smallpox and typhoid fever were commonplace; average life expectancy was 31 years
    • in 1794, Dr. Edward Jenner developed vaccine against smallpox, disease time killed one out of every 10 children younger than 4.
    • Polio; until vaccine in the 1950s, poliomyelitis was feared; however, a number of discoveries led to the vaccine, which has eradicated the disease in the industrialized world.
    • Heart Disease: until the 20th century, successful heart surgery was unthinkable because it was impossible to see inside a beating heart. After work with animal models, a heart-lung machine was developed. now; 600,000 cardiac bypass operations are performed each year in the US alone.
    • Years of research have led to great advances in diabetes; insulin was formerly obtained by isolating it from animal pancreases; now manufactured by bacteria using genetic engineering;

Clinical trials

PHASE I TRIALS: Initial studies to determine the metabolism and pharmacologic actions of drugs in humans, the side effects associated with increasing doses, and to gain early evidence of effectiveness; may include healthy participants and/or patients.

PHASE II TRIALS: Controlled clinical studies conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the drug for a particular indication or indications in patients with the disease or condition under study and to determine the common short-term side effects and risks.

PHASE III TRIALS: Expanded controlled and uncontrolled trials after preliminary evidence suggesting effectiveness of the drug has been obtained, and are intended to gather additional information to evaluate the overall benefit-risk relationship of the drug and provide and adequate basis for physician labeling.

PHASE IV TRIALS: Post-marketing studies to delineate additional information including the drug's risks, benefits, and optimal use.

In groups


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Discoveries in medicine

1. Human Genome Discoveries Reach the Bedside

2. Doctors and Patients Harness Information Technology (moving away from pad and paper)

3. Anti-Smoking Laws and Campaigns Reduce Public Smoking

4. Heart Disease Deaths Drop by 40 Percent

5. Stem Cell Research: Laboratory Breakthroughs and Some Clinical Advances

6. Targeted Therapies for Cancer Expand with New Drugs

7. Combination Drug Therapy Extends HIV Survival

8. Minimally Invasive Techniques Revolutionize Surgery

9. Study Finds Heart, Cancer Risk with Hormone Replacement Therapy

10. Scientists Peer Into Mind with Functional MRI


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