What is medical research?
Medical research can be described as any research conducted with the aim of supporting and furthering the development of medical knowledge. In recent years, medical research has directly resulted in the emergence of countless new treatments and vaccines, and has helped to increase scientists’ understanding of the workings of the human body and the mechanisms of diseases.
How is medical research conducted?
Medical research can be conducted in a variety of different means. There are three principle types of medical research, namely basic biological research, pre-clinical research and clinical research.
Basic medical research
Basic medical research is conducted primarily to further scientists’ understanding of disease and its effects on the human body. Key areas of interest for biologists conducting basic medical research are cellular biology, neuroscience, genetics, and psychology.
Recent innovations in technology have enabled scientists to gain a new insight into the workings of the body’s smallest, but most important building blocks – cells. The introduction of 3D and 4D imaging technologies has enabled scientists to observe cells more clearly than ever before, and examine their components in extreme detail. Computer imaging modules such as the ImarisCell from Bitplane.com has also been developed to make it easier for scientists to analyse their findings in detail and draw reliable conclusions from their research.
Cellular research is particularly important in the fight against cancer. Every cancer is different and by studying the different types of cancer in detail, scientists are more likely to be able to develop treatment methods that are effective at targeting and killing cancer cells.
Pre-Clinical and Clinical Research
Pre-Clinical and Clinical Research methods are often employed to determine the efficiency, effectiveness and safety of new drugs. Pre-clinical research involves using either computer technologies or animals to gage an understanding of how safe a drug is and how likely it is to be useful to humans. Clinical trials, on the other hand, involve humans. If a pre-clinical trial shows signs of success, the study will often progress to a clinical research trial involving humans. The researchers conducing the trial are responsible for selecting test subjects for the trial, and for ensuring that the trial is as safe as possible. Researchers must also work to ensure that the trial is not biased, and that ethical guidelines are strictly followed.
The basic principles of medical and research ethics must be applied to every type of research trial. The aim of research ethics is to ensure that patients are treated with respect and dignity, and that scientific misconduct is not permitted to occur.
Proposed tests must be approved by the appropriate ethics committee, and test subjects are typically required to sign an informed consent form.
The use of animals in a pre-clinical trial is a complex ethical issue. Debates regarding animal testing usually focus on how likely it is that an animal can feel pain or how the animal will be treated after the experiment. In many countries, ethical guidelines have been set to govern the use of animals in medical experiments and minimise the suffering they experience by administering analgesia and/or anesthesia.