Bridging the gap between basic, clinical researchers

story2_smallTheir challenges and goals may be the same, but basic science and clinical researchers often work in silos. ISC Pre-Conference Symposium II will bring the two groups together to open lines of communication and advance the stroke science.

“We want the junior and senior investigators and basic and clinical investigators to talk together,” said Louise D. McCullough, MD, PhD, symposium chair.

“Bridge Over Troubled Water: Issues in Translational Stroke Research” will address the unique challenges basic and clinical researchers face from 1 to 5 p.m. Feb. 21 in Room 320 A-C. Participants will explore how they can work better together, review the new grant proposal requirements from the National Institutes of Health and discuss the use of human specimens in preclinical research and international research in vascular dementia. The symposium will feature question-and-answer discussions and a wine and cheese reception.

“Many times, the two groups of researchers operate in a vacuum,” said Lauren H. Sansing, MD, MSTR, symposium co-chair. “We want to bring everyone together and talk about what is needed to move a target from the bench to a clinical trial. It would be useful for the basic scientists to understand what kinds of endpoints are used on the clinical side and what kinds of measures are useful on the animal modeling side.”

Likewise, Sansing said it would be beneficial for the clinical researchers to hear from the basic scientists about the struggles of modeling something in animals.

“How do we take a target from an animal model and think about how to better design clinical trials to measure what the actual mechanisms of benefit were in the model?” she asked.

Building animal models requires researchers to develop targets so the models reflect clinical stroke syndromes, as well as know the differences between humans and rodents when using human specimens in preclinical work. Two presentations will advise on research targets and the use of human specimens.

“We don’t always look hard enough for relevant mechanisms using human samples. That is a big part of this translational gap and why rodent therapeutic targets have not always made the jump into clinical trials,” said Sansing, assistant professor of neurology at Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut. “We want to see how we could look at certain mechanisms using human specimens, whether they are pathological specimens in post-mortem brains or they are peripheral blood specimens, biomarkers or leukocyte responses that would be helpful in confirming if a target is relevant in patients.”

Modeling for vascular dementia faces many of the same challenges in developing translational research targets, the focus of another presentation.

“We know that vascular cognitive impairment is an incredibly important public health problem. There is cognitive impairment, but the pathology is often a mix of Alzheimer’s disease, small vessel disease and white matter disease. They all combine to cause important cognitive impairments in dementia in our patients,” Sansing said.

Just as important as the research is knowing how to bridge the gap between pre-clinical and clinical research, and how to develop grant proposals to support the work, the focus of two more symposium presentations.

“The NIH has implemented some new requirements in grant proposals, including experimental rigor and looking at the inclusion of relative biological variables in our animal models,” Sansing said.

The goal of the symposium organizers is to unite the many groups influencing stroke research, from the proposal stage to clinical implementation.

“We want to bring together perspectives from academics, the NIH and researchers who have established promising relationships with industry to hit on all of the challenges we have in moving translational targets to clinical trials. We are hoping this session pulls in people from different avenues of research,” Sansing said.