Translational Research in Actual Examples

Now we will see some specific examples of translational research, and the way it has helped to shape discoveries made in basic research, into clinical treatments:

1. Harry Dietz and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University found that, a medicine already approved in the United States as a treatment for high blood pressure, can also prevent the aortic aneurisms found in mice with Marfan syndrome. This syndrome affects the body's connective tissue and the complications are normally defects of the heart valves and aorta, which often lead to early death. The medicine has now been tested as a therapy in a group of children with this syndrome and was found to inhibit the development of the potentially deadly abnormalities in the aorta.

2. Anant Madabhushi and colleagues at Rutgers University using sophisticated image processing algorithms, can analyse the texture in medical images made with high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to detect and locate early stage prostate tumours. This application of computational tools to medical imaging yields a more sensitive and reliable technique for clinical application than other existing approaches.

3. A research team led by Rino Rappuoli in the University of Siena, found a vaccine for meningitis B using conventional methods after several decades of unsuccessful efforts. They identified a vaccine candidate using a translational approach called reverse vaccinology, which involved analysing the genome sequence of Meningococcus B (microorganism that causes meningitis). This candidate methodology is now tested in clinical trials.

4. James Tunnell's group at the University of Texas in USA, developed gold nanoparticles that can be directed to cancer cells, allowing detection by fluorescence spectroscopy even when the tumours are quite small. These same particles can then be activated with strong light to potentially destroy the tumour. This approach combines optical imaging, spectroscopy and nanotechnology for early cancer diagnosis and treatment.

5. To delay the onset of blindness, many patients with glaucoma must administer eye drops multiple times during the day, a demanding routine that can prevent effective control of the disease. Erin Lavik at Case Western Reserve University developed microspheres containing a glaucoma medicine, which can be injected into one spot in the eye, where the microspheres secrete controlled amounts of the medicine for over a month. This improvement in the way that glaucoma patients receive their medication could lead to more consistent levels of the medicine and better outcomes for the patient.

6. The Japanese authorities are working on a concept for new medicines that requires a diagnostic test be available to improve a medicine’s efficacy. The biomarker assay is associated to the medicine and the patient stratification. It is expected that such medicines will prove to be more efficacious for the targeted disease, and with less unwanted side effects and toxicity.