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Published On: Tue, Sep 20th, 2016

Medical Research May Be Pokey, but It’s Definitely Paramount

The many advancements that have been made in the treatment and cure of diseases in humans all have experimentation at their core. Without centuries of research – from the body snatchers of the 19th century to the well-respected laboratories of today – our species likely wouldn’t enjoy life as much as we do now. But the pace of breakthroughs can seem glacial to those who don’t understand the medical research process and how it affects the treatments that eventually become available to the general public. Thousands of people likely are involved in the evolution of each clinical treatment, and they all play integral roles.

Why Research Is Important

Many people believe doctors and scientists already know all there is to know about the human body and its many complex systems. Nothing could be farther from the truth, however. The brain alone holds enough mysteries as to its inner workings to keep researchers busy for decades. The journey toward medical knowledge that scientists embark upon daily may be just an incremental step in our understanding of diseases and their cures, but each of those steps is vital. Humans have made huge leaps and bounds in the realm of medical understanding during the past two centuries, but there still is a long way to go. In fact, the future of mankind likely depends on it.

General Overview of Process

Scientists with myriad different types of training might be involved in medical research. A laboratory team could comprise physicians, scientists, students, lab techs and professors, depending on where the experimentation is being conducted. Testing a hypothesis could begin with basic research about a general topic, then advance to preclinical trials. Only after years of work do clinical trials on actual humans become part of the equation. Many times, the research will not even reach that step. More often than not, experiments don’t lead to the projected outcome and are abandoned or modified along the way.

Research Funding

The funding for medical research comes from a variety of sources, including the government, pharmaceutical companies, and private investors. Perhaps the most significant portion of the money in the United States comes from the National Institutes of Health, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH awards billions of dollars each year for medical research, mainly in the form of grants to universities, labs, and other facilities around the globe. Non-profit organizations such as the American Cancer Society generally fund research on specific topics using money that partially is donated by members of the public at large.

DNA double helix photo by This image was released by the National Human Genome Research Institute, an agency part of the National Institutes of Health

DNA double helix photo by This image was released by the National Human Genome Research Institute, an agency part of the National Institutes of Health

Potential Obstacles

As with most types of innovation, there are plenty of hurdles that can derail promising medical research. The most common is a loss of funding if no advancements are made after a long period of time. However, scientists also may be stymied by ethical or moral objections, such as in the case of stem cell research or living tissue collection. They might also face objections to clinical trials or a lack of subjects willing to participate in studies of unproven drugs or procedures. Fortunately, scientists on a mission are especially resourceful when it comes to finding alternative approaches or theories that allow them to continue their efforts.

Recent Major Breakthroughs

The year 2016 is predicted to see many significant advances in medical treatments, particularly in the realm of anti-aging medications. Coming on the heels of bruce eaton’s work in the 2000s on Macugen, a macular degeneration treatment option, the field of age-related research is surging. There are breakthroughs pending on clot prevention for stroke victims, wearable sensors, and ultra-sensitive blood tests. Just last year, scientists effectively reprogrammed T-cells to fight cancer, used 3-D printing technology to replace body parts, and melted cataracts from patients’ corneas using medicated eye drops. Truly, recent advances seem the stuff of science fiction, but all of it is thanks to medical research work done by thousands of teams across the globe.

photo/ Agricultural Research Services

photo/ Agricultural Research Services

Coming Soon

The horizon for breakthroughs looks to be even more exciting. Researchers have set their sights on advances such as the end of superbugs like the MRSA staph infection, as well as DNA-editing tools that substitute disease-triggering genes for healthy ones. When an epidemic arises anywhere on the globe, we will have the ability in coming years to create enough vaccinations for everyone affected much more quickly that we can now. And couples who struggle with infertility likely will have a whole new arsenal of options at their disposal soon for creating a family.

The only thing standing between more mind-boggling medical breakthroughs and the human race is time. The process toward acceptance of new treatments, drugs, and procedures can be long and arduous, but fortunately, scientists have been on the research track for decades already. That means we could be a just a few years away from a discovery that could change all of our lives for the better.

Guest Author: Lolita Di

stethoscope photo courtesy of powertoolsplanet.com

stethoscope photo courtesy of powertoolsplanet.com

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