Clinical and Translational Research
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines clinical research as: patient-oriented research, which is research conducted with human subjects (or on material of human origin such as tissues, specimens, and cognitive phenomena) for which an investigator (or colleague) directly interacts with human subjects, and includes studies of the mechanisms of human disease, therapeutic interventions, clinical trials, and the development of new technologies; epidemiologic and behavioral studies; and outcomes and health services research.
Translational research is defined as the application of discoveries generated during research in the laboratory, and in preclinical studies, to the development of trials and studies in human studies and investigations of strategies to enhance the adoption of best clinical practices in the community. These projects may involve studies at the molecular, cellular, animal, patient or population level.
Some examples of translational research at Mayo Clinic include:
- Population-based: Mayo Clinic researchers are examining the addition of breast density, one of the strongest risk factors for breast cancer, to breast cancer prediction models, hoping to more precisely define a woman's risk for developing breast cancer in order to tailor screening and risk-reduction measures to the individual. Additionally, Center for Translational Science Activities (CTSA) KL2 Career Development Program scholar Karthik Ghosh, M.D. and her mentor Celine Vachon, Ph.D., are studying differences in the composition of dense and non-dense breast tissue using a unique resource of core biopsies provided by healthy women, developed with funding from the KL2. They reported dramatic differences in the composition of dense and non-dense breast tissue in two separate studies. They found that denser breast tissue contains more cells believed to give rise to breast cancer, and more aromatase enzyme — a factor in breast cancer development.
- Patient-based: Physical and mental stresses, including exercise, affect the autonomic nervous system in many ways. CTSA Co-Principal Investigator and Service Center Director Michael Joyner, M.D., is a leader in understanding how the body responds to these stressors. His collaborations include one with Mayo Clinic physiologist Nisha Charkoudian, Ph.D., another key CTSA faculty member, in which they are studying gender differences in blood pressure regulation; and others looking at things like factors that increase blood flow to muscles during exercise and the role of genetics in blood pressure regulation. Read more
- Laboratory-based: Using zebrafish as a model system, Stephen Ekker, Ph.D., developed a gene knockdown technology — which has since become a standard tool for decreasing gene expression and blocking translation, and a mutagenic transposon. Dr. Ekker came to Mayo Clinic in 2007 and established a Zebrafish Core Facility — and his research and that of many colleagues has flourished with the new capability. The zebrafish model system is used in many Mayo research studies including ones looking at how nanotechnology can be used to treat cancer, seeking to better understand pancreatic cancer, and investigating the genetics of behavior — specifically in relation to nicotine addiction. Read more