2 September 2011
A scientist in the lab makes a discovery but is unaware of its relevance to a common disease; a doctor identifies key features of a medical condition and recognises a clinical need. But how can one inform the other?
‘Translational research’ is the answer.
Translational research describes the two-way interaction between fundamental research and life beyond the laboratory bench - whether that's a hospital bedside, school classroom, or a policy team at Westminster.
Enhancing translational research is one of the key objectives of Bristol Neuroscience (BN). This month [September 2011] BN is turning its aims into actions by sending four of its neuroscientists away from the lab and into the clinic.
In a unique funding scheme the new Translational Neuroscience Research Fellowships (TNRFs), which are being co-ordinated by the Institute for Advanced Studies, enable BN neuroscientists to spend time with doctors and patients in the clinic. Here they can observe medical practice, establish contacts, and make informed future plans for their research. It’s a crucial but often insurmountable first step towards translational clinical neuroscience.
Childhood brain cancer, aggressive behaviour, psychiatric disorders and brain injury are the conditions being tackled by the prize winners: Professor Richard Apps, Dr Emma Robinson (both based in the School of Physiology and Pharmacology), Dr Ute Leonards and Professor Marcus Munafo (both in the School of Experimental Psychology). (See more details below.)
BN are very grateful to the late Cassie Squance for enabling this research initative to go ahead; she specified that ~£30,000 of her legacy, donated through the University Centenary Campaign, should go towards neuroscience research. Her generous gift is now funding the TNRFs.
With such a massive potential for making real-life impact, it is hoped that further funds can be raised to allow the TNRF scheme to continue for many years to come, and facilitate more vital interaction between hospital bedside and laboratory bench.
Cerebellar tumours are the second most common cancer in children. Richard Apps, an expert in cerebellar physiology, is using the TNRF to spend time with Richard Edwards and other paediatric neurosurgeons in the Institute for Clinical Neurosciences at Frenchay Hospital.
Marcus Munafo has established how someone’s perception of another’s emotional state can be altered through training. He is working with forensic clinical psychologists at the Fromeside Medium Secure Unit to assess if such training is applicable to aggressive behaviour in a psychopathological context.
By observing patients in a clinical setting, Emma Robinson is looking to see how her research into memory translates into real life. She has found emotions change the way that experiences are remembered and will use the TNRF to investigate how this relates to the treatment of clinical depression.
Cognitive, attention -related disorders are highly common in children who have suffered head injury, for example from a road accident, and often last years after the incident took place. Ute Leonards is seeing the effects first hand by spending time with clinical specialists as they care for patients suffering from traumatic brain injury.
The purpose of the Institute for Advanced Studies is to enhance research and intellectual life at the University of Bristol. It encompasses all disciplines within the University, promotes creative interdisciplinarity, and seeks to extend the public reach of the University through dissemination activities and external collaborations.
There will be a further round of awards for academic year 2012/13. All BN members are welcome to apply. See eligibility and application details.
In 2009 Bristol University celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the granting of its Royal Charter. To mark this key milestone, the Centenary Campaign was launched to raise funds that will ensure Bristol enters its second century stronger and more successful than ever before.
See how you can donate towards research or any other aspect of the University.
Bringing researchers into the clinic will enable neuroscience to have real-life impact