Translational research

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The Smilow Center for Translational Research at the University of Pennsylvania is one of a growing number of translational research facilities around the world.

Translational research is research that helps to make findings from basic science useful for practical applications that enhance human health and well-being. It is practiced in fields such as environmental and agricultural science, as well as the health, behavioral, and social sciences. For example, in medicine and nursing it is used to "translate" findings in basic research quickly into medical and nursing practice and meaningful health outcomes.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines translational research as such:

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. Cost-effectiveness of prevention and treatment strategies is also an important part of translational science.[1]

Hence, translational research is seen as a key component to finding practical applications, especially within healthcare. Connecting research with these practical applications can be challenging at times, however, in part due to the compartmentalization within scientific research training. Scientists in general are not taught to correlate their research with clinical application, and clinicians often fail to connect clinical observations with how they formulate a research study. And while public health professionals have plenty of the community knowledge general scientists and clinicians lack, they often skip over and formal training in basic or clinical research.[2]

With these challenges in mind, the "two areas of translation" the NIH references thus tend to receive greater scrutiny, with the first mentioned area labeled as T1 research and the second as T2 research[2][3]:

T1 research: "applying discoveries generated during research in the laboratory, and in preclinical studies, to the development of trials and studies in humans"; this is often known as the "bench to bedside and back" enterprise, one that transfers laboratory findings to clinical trials and, if successful, to the human population. Scientists typically require strong knowledge in molecular, genetic, and other sciences and a strong clinical background capable of looking beyond the research and seeing how it can effectively be applied.

T2 research: "enhancing the adoption of best practices in the community"; this area is composed of the community and ambulatory care settings, including public health professionals. They help bring the results achieved in T1 research to the public through population- and practice-based research and application. The professionals in this area require different research skills, including the knowledge base of how to effectively evaluate and implement T1 research in real-world settings through fields of study like clinical epidemiology, behavioral science, and public policy.

Translational research can also be described as translative research and translational science, although these terms fails to disambiguate themselves from research that is not scientific (e.g. market research) or which is considered outside their scope.

Comparison to basic research or applied research

Translational research is a paradigm for research, alternative to the dichotomy of basic research and applied research. Basic research is more speculative and takes a long time — often decades — to be applied in any practical context. Basic research often leads to breakthroughs or paradigm shifts in practice. On the other hand, applied research is research that can have an impact in practice in a relatively short time, but it often represents an incremental improvement to current processes rather than a radical breakthrough.

The cultural separation between different scientific fields as well as the inherent differences from basic and applied research makes it difficult to establish the multi-disciplinary and multi-skilled teams that are necessary to be successful in translational research. Other challenges arise in the traditional incentives which reward individual principal investigators over the types of multi-disciplinary teams that are necessary for translational research. Also, journal publication norms often require tight control of experimental conditions, and these are difficult to achieve in real-world contexts.[4]

Application of translational research

Translation research is often applied in the domain of healthcare but has more general applicability as a distinct research approach. It is also allied in practice with the approaches of participative science and participatory action research. In nursing, the need for translational research was a primary driver for the development of the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

Outside medicine, translational research can be applied more generally, as in science-to-business marketing or other initiatives where researchers try to shorten the time frame and conflate the basic-applied continuum, to "translate" fundamental research results into practical applications. It is necessarily a much more iterative style of research, with low and permeable barriers and much interaction between academic research and industry practice. Practitioners help shape the research agenda by supplying difficult problems to which applied research would only offer incremental improvements.

See also


An element or two of this article is reused from the Wikipedia article.

External links


  1. "RFA-RM-07-007: Institutional Clinical and Translational Science Award (U54)". National Institutes of Health. 22 March 2007. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "What is Translational Research?". Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  3. Woolf, Steven H. (January 2008). "The Meaning of Translational Research and Why It Matters". The Journal of the American Medical Association 299 (2): 211–213. doi:10.1001/jama.2007.26. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  4. Feldman, Arthur M. (September 2008). "Does Academic Culture Support Translational Research?". Clinical and Translational Science 1 (2): 87–88. doi:10.1111/j.1752-8062.2008.00046.x. Retrieved 23 March 2014.