Basic and Applied Research in Rehabilitation: Introduction to Neurotrauma Letter’s Basic/Applied Research Column


Peter Patrick, Donald Stein, and Nathan Zasler

The Neurotrauma Letter (NTL) will now regularly include reports from basic and translational research in the Translational Research Corner. The NTL will solicit articles from scientists and clinicians around the world.

The goal of basic research should go beyond the development of new knowledge and extend to the practice of caring for individuals with brain injury or disease. Research driven interventions promote translational use of basic science findings in changing and amending current practice. The traditional separation between basic science and clinical care has been under challenge in part because there seems to be a critical gap in moving the results of laboratory research to the patient’s bedside. The NIH, under the new leadership of Director Francis Collins, is trying to remedy this situation (Science (2010) 328, 1090). 

For example, the NIH is supporting a “Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise”. through incentives funding of more translational studies. Cultural and methodological differences between professions make interdisciplinary efforts difficult. To expedite change, the NIH has instituted the Rapid Access to Interventional Development (RAID) Pilot Program in hopes of reducing barriers and increasing the use of scientific discoveries to support clinical trials. The NIH-RAID Pilot will accept requests through 2011. Complete funding announcements can be found at National Institutes of Health Rapid Access to Intervention Development (NIH-RAID) Program (X01).

In addition to the alternate funding, NIH has also developed a Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Consortium. This website was developed to ensure access to CTSA resources, enhance communication and encourage information sharing.

Many things will be required to accomplish the needed changes. Such changes may include more opportunity for leadership training, increased mentoring of basic scientists in clinical application.  Also, changes may be needed in mechanisms to fund translational, cross discipline research and team building. There may even be a need to change the way study sections are conducted so as to emphasize the new priority in translational and applied research.

There is both a cultural change and an infrastructure change for any organization that has an interest to join in on the new frontiers of translational and applied research. Cross training, understanding of techniques and procedures as well as establishing information systems which are all required to participate and compete effectively. 

We will hope to present not only the results of research projects but also look at various international programs and centers who are dedicated to such change. As readers of the International Neurotrauma Letter, please send your questions, suggestions and ideas regarding this new column. We also encourage readers who are engaged in translational research and program building to submit articles and topics for review and/or consideration.