Science Sunday: Medical Research

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.

Science Sunday: Medical Research

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.


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22 thoughts on “Science Sunday: Medical Research”

  • I am always iffy about participating in research, but it makes me feel better to have some insight and background knowledge about something first! I’m glad you took the time to enlighten everyone! I appreciate it.

    • Thank you! I really appreciate your thoughts because I have seen the apprehension towards research and wanted everyone to be aware of the good that it does and the confidentiality that is involved with it.

  • I like that you are publishing what you do and explaining things so that everyone can understand. Keep it going!


  • This is AWESOME! I am a total science nerd so I love reading about and learning new things about the world of science. I have my degree in research psychology, so on the other side of the medical field. Thanks for posting, maybe we could tandem sometime and show both sides of research.

  • It’s a pity that so much fear persists due to mistakes made in the past. This is such a simple way to help our fellow humans and indeed ourselves!

  • I can’t wait to let our daughter read this post. She is a Science girl. We even went to one of the top research hospitals here in Colorado. They talked about cancer research and how they get specimens, etc. It was fascinating. Thanks for sharing what you do.

  • Very interesting. I would love to see medicine move away from the “one-size-fits-all” method and create a means of personalizing treatment. Your research will contribute to that. I think one of things that will help get more willing participants is trust-building. I think many have a hard time trusting the industry. However, your article contributes to giving more insight – which will help build the trust. The information is insightful and needed. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you for sharing. I was just talking to a distant relative about trying the Ancestry DNA. I know that there is so much we are learning from medical records and tying it into our family researches.

  • Thank you for sharing more information about medical research. My husband is a recent kidney transplant recipient, and I know how important it was for his doctors to test the donor kidney and him to make sure things were a match. None of that would be possible without willing participants. Thanks also for shedding light on the safeguards in place these days.

  • I would never volunteer to be a guinea pig for research. Many of the diseases that are plaguing society were created in a lab. I am glad you mentioned the people that were experimented on without their knowledge. It’s really sad that animals are being used to do research on as well. I know some might say well “researchers are doing this to save lives” but how many lives are really being saved? If the diseases weren’t created in the first place they wouldn’t need to find a cure or research it. Also many cancers come from unhealthy lifestyles. I have read many stories of people who had certain illnesses and when they changed their eating habits or changed the way they were living period that they became illness free. I would love to hear more about what you do and the time span of the work that you do. I love science and I look forward to reading more from you.

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