Biomedical Research Definitions
Words used to describe different kinds of biomedical research
Biomedical Research: The area of science devoted to the study of the processes of life, the prevention and treatment of disease, and the genetic and environmental factors related to disease and health.
Basic or “pure” Research: Research conducted to increase the base knowledge and understanding of the physical, chemical, and functional mechanisms of life processes and disease. It is fundamental and not directed to solving any particular biomedical problem in humans or animals. This type of research often involves observing, describing, measuring, and experimental manipulation and provides the building blocks upon which the other types of research (applied and clinical) are based. A basic researcher seeks to add to the store of knowledge about how living things work. A basic researcher’s experiments add pieces to the immensely complex puzzles of life.
Examples of Basic Research:
- How do nerves convey signals to the brain via biochemicals?
- How do taste and smell change with age?
- How does an octopus’s body regenerate a severed tentacle?
Applied Research: Research that is directed towards specific objectives such as the development of a new drug, therapy, or surgical procedure. It involves the application of existing knowledge, much of which is obtained through basic research, to a specific biomedical problem. Applied research can be conducted with animals, nonanimal alternatives such as computer models or tissue cultures, or with humans.
Examples of Applied Research:
- What drug can be developed to help cure cancer of the skin?
- Can we “teach” a mouse’s body to regenerate a severed leg?
Clinical Research: Using the knowledge gained in basic and applied research to conduct research (generally with humans) in treating disease or dysfunction in a new way.
Research that takes place in a hospital or clinical setting and is focused on treating specific human and animal diseases and other ailments. Clinical research builds upon the knowledge learned through applied and basic research. Clinical research is conducted on human beings and takes shape in treatments and drugs that directly improve human healthcare.
Examples of Clinical Research:
- What are the side effects of a specific new drug?
Biological Models System: A system that can be observed instead of the original system, human or animal, that is of ultimate interest to the research.
Researchers use models because they help to answer questions that could not be answered using the original system with the technology and methods that exist. By using a model, researchers increase their ability to isolate and study certain features that would be too complex to study or impossible to isolate in the original system.
Types of Models Used in Biomedical Research:
- Whole living animals (human and non-human)
- Living systems composed of samples from the original animal (i.e., tissue culture)
- Non-living mechanical or molecular systems
- Mathematical models (i.e., computer simulations)