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Top 5 Translational Research Stories | 2012 Year in Review

12/27/2012
Andrew S. Wiecek

This past year, researchers have made big strides in their understanding of cancer, but the challenges of translating those findings to treatments remain. Read more...


Top 5 Translational Research News Stories | 2012 Year in Review

This past year, researchers have made big strides in their understanding of cancer, but the challenges of translating those findings to treatments remain. Read more...

Storified by BioTechniques· Thu, Dec 27 2012 10:43:39

It’s no surprise that a majority of our top translational research stories of 2012 are focused on cancer. Cancer, or rather cancers, are a complex set of diseases because of their variety, persistence, and difficulty to target. The fact that every human reacts differently to cancer treatments adds another layer of complexity to the puzzle. Despite the many moving parts, researchers certainly made significant strides in understanding the disease in 2012, from finding new ways to target cancer cells with fluorescent bacteria to finally isolating and analyzing cancer stem cells. But even before that, the stage for these discoveries was set when the NIH introduced its new center focused on translational research.  
BioTechniques - New Year, New NIH Translational CenterNew Year, New NIH Translational Center In the last days of 2011, the National Institutes of Health received a new addition to its family ...
Translational research became a major focus of the biomedical research community in 2012, thanks to the creation of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the start of the year. Federal regulations limit the number of institutes and centers within the NIH, so that meant the agency had to eliminate one of its centers, resulting in the dismantling of the National Center for Research Resources. This caused quite a stir at the time, but during 2012, the dust on that argument seems to have settled, being replaced by questions of whether the NIH is encroaching on pharma’s territory and if this will be good or bad for business and our health in the long run. NIH director Francis Collins certainly believes so. Read more...
BioTechniques - Nobel Prize Goes to Lefkowitz, Kobilka for GPCR ResearchNobel Prize Goes to Lefkowitz, Kobilka for GPCR Research Two biochemists won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on G-protein-cou...
In October, two biochemists—Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka—received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their research on G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR). These proteins are located in the cell membrane where they play significant roles in cell signaling and are implicated in diseases such as cancer. These characteristics make them particularly well-suited for drug targets to treat a variety of diseases, including cancer. Read more...  
BioTechniques - Engineered Bacteria Target TumorsEngineered Bacteria Target Tumors Cancer drug delivery takes another step forward as scientists prove bioluminescent bacteria can target ...
One of the biggest challenges that continued to plague cancer drug developers in 2012 was how to specifically target cancer cells. With this in mind, one group of Irish researchers introduced a rather unique approach to begin solving this problem. They genetically engineered a bacteria to be bioluminescent and grow in tumors. As a result, when injected into a mouse model, these bacteria migrate to tumor sites and illuminate the cancerous cells in the body. Now the trick, as always is the case with studies in animal models, is to get this technique to work in humans. Read more...  
BioTechniques - Google Goes CancerTaking Google's PageRank algorithm as their model, researchers in Germany aim to rank gene expression networks to predict clinical outcom...
Not only is it difficult to develop a treatment that works in animal model for use in humans, but it’s also proving difficult to predict how effective certain drugs will be from patient to patient. To aid in these predictions, German researchers took Google’s PageRank algorithm and adapted it to rank gene expression networks with clinical outcomes in cancer patients. After analyzing over 400 patients, they found that their system was pretty accurate overall. Read more...  
BioTechniques - Leukemia Originates from Blood Stem CellsLeukemia Originates from Blood Stem Cells By isolating individual blood stem cells and sequencing their genomes, Stanford researchers hav...
And our final choice among the top stories of the year is a nice example of how technical advances in the lab are finally providing us with some answers on controversial subjects. All in all, 2012 was the year that single-cell analysis broke out of the gate, thanks to advances in cell isolation, flow cytometry, and microfluidics. These techniques were instrumental in the identification of stem cells in a variety of cancers. Cancer stem cells, or rather tumor-initiating cells—a term that most biologist prefer because they feel it more accurately describes these cells—were first hypothesized over a decade ago, but until this year, no one has been able to isolate and study them thoroughly. Now, we’re getting our first look at these early cancer cells, fueling  the hope that we can catch cancer earlier and be certain to eliminate all of these cells during treatment so they don’t give rise to another tumor. Read more...

In short, whether you agree or disagree with the establishment of NIH’s new translational research center, it has contributed much to the current atmosphere in the lab by making the challenge of translating basic research into treatments a lingering thought in every researcher’s mind.