Can you believe it’s been two weeks already since my first Science Sunday? Me either. I am sitting here writing this while I am on vacation with my family because it’s important to me to get this out there for you guys. This weeks edition of Science Sunday is about Medical Research. Medical research is what I do everyday for my full time job. Yes, there has been a lot of stigmatism around medical research but I hope to change some of that.
Medical research, at least the research I do is based on collection of fluid, blood, or tissue samples from patients that has a specific disorder or disease. What we do is look for biomarkers that can help us drive treatment towards more personalized medicine. There is also medical research done on animals and clinical trials (which I am sure you have heard about) that test drugs on patients. What I do is considered basic medical science and if you want to learn more about the other two just let me know and I can write about them too.
I work in what is called a BioBank were we collect and store these specimens. After enough specimens that fit a certain disorder or disease is collected we perform a myirad of laboratory tests to see ii one or more biomarkers are present. A biomarker is a gene, gene product, protein, or other biological substance that all or majority of the patients with that disorder or disease have in common. Once found, our goal is to find that same biomarker in a blood sample. So, what does that mean exactly? It means that our goal is to one day run a blood test on you and tell you that you are preconditioned (have the markers for) a disease, like colon cancer for example. Since you have those biomarkers you should get a colonoscopy starting at an earlier age to prevent the cancer. Pretty neat huh? IT really is an amazing thing that we can do to help people.
But that means we need your help. We rely on a person’s consent to collect specimens for our research. Patients are deidentified so no one working with your sample will know who you are and there are safeguards in place to be sure that nothing happens to a patients current or future treatment. What it does not mean is that you will not be cloned, nor will the government get your DNA. By helping medical research you are helping the next person who may have your disorder or disease.
A lot of people know about Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee Airmen where research was performed without the patients knowledge or consent. That does not happen anymore. Everyone performing research in today’s society is overseen by and HIC (human investigation committee) or IRB (institutional review board) that guarantees your safety. You have nothing to fear.
Some of the upcoming Science Sunday’s will go more in depth with how we actually perform the research. It really is fascinating stuff but too much to put in here. This is just to get awareness out there and ask that the next time someones asks you to be in research, you should really consider saying yes and helping the future generations.