Research. What does that word mean to you?
For different people, research can mean very different things. Many folks immediately think of a man in a long, white coat staring at red-eyed rats in a fluorescently lit, test tube filled laboratory. This actually is the case for some research, but there’s a whole world of research not involving bubbling beakers and rodents.
So, this could be a description of someone who does research and a place where research is done, but what is research?
Health research is learning about people, their characteristics, or their diseases with a goal of increasing knowledge and improving health.
Now that we have a definition, we can move on to the enormous scope that is research. People in academics/research tend put research projects into different categories.
Basic science research is the guy in the lab coat that we have already referenced above. Basic science research often takes place in a lab. It involves “pure science”; it is focused on learning about the fundamental mechanisms and patterns of a phenomenon. In plainer terms, basic research allows us to learn how and why things occur, usually on a micro level - cells, protein, and molecules. It is done to enhance knowledge without a goal of finding an immediate therapy to help cure disease. Figuring out how to improve disease is very difficult to do if you don’t understand the basics of how a disease works. Simply put – if you don’t know how it works to start with, it’s going to be really hard to fix it when it’s broken. That knowledge is what basic science research provides us.
An example of basic science research in pediatric cardiology – studying how electrical signals travel through proteins in heart cells and result in a coordinated beat. Learning about these proteins is not going to immediately cure a disease, but it will tell us more about how the heart works. Then, when a disease does occur, we will have a better understanding of why it’s making the heart sick, and we might be able to start designing a treatment.
Contributor: Kurt Schumacher
Clinical research is research that directly involves human beings. It usually does have a goal that could directly result in improvements for disease care. It could be observing what happens in certain disease processes to find where new treatment could be targeted. It could be comparing groups of people to one another to see why disease happens in one group and doesn’t in another. It could be testing a new treatment.
An example of clinical research in pediatric cardiology – studying a new medicine to see if it helps prevent low blood pressure after heart surgery in babies. The people studying the medicine might put half the babies on it and treat half the babies in the standard way, then compare those 2 groups. You can see that this directly involves patients - babies with heart disease - and it has an immediate goal of improving care - making post-operative blood pressure better – so it’s definitely clinical research.
Translational research is kind of bridge between basic science and clinical research. Translational research aims to take new scientific discoveries, either in the lab or clinical world, and transform it into something that could benefit people.
An example in pediatric cardiology – there is a new discovery of a protein that is produced when heart muscle cells are injured (basic science research). A researcher then measures the amount of the protein in the blood of patients with heart failure (translational research). This is taking a new discovery – the injury protein – and transforming it into something to benefit people – a blood test that might help detect or grade severity of heart failure.
With so many uncertainties in the congenital heart defect field, the field of research is extremely valuable and significant. Moving forward, it is promising to see what new discoveries will be made for future generations.
Contributor: Kurt Schumacher