Describe an Example of Translational Research That Inspires You

Translational research incorporates laboratory breakthroughs into patient care. We asked BWH scientists to share examples of translational research that has made a difference to them—and the world.

Portrait of Elazer R. Edelman, MD, PhD

“There are so many examples. There’s the advent of antibiotics, the introduction of insulin, the implementation of anesthesia, all the efforts enabling surgeries such as cardiopulmonary bypass. There’s hardly a field of medicine where science and engineering have not changed the practice of medicine.”

Elazer R. Edelman, MD, PhD,
Senior Physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Thomas D. and Virginia W. Cabot Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Portrait of Deepak Rao, MD, PhD


“One of the powers of translational research is the inspiration we draw from patients. For example, we have effective therapies for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, but the question remains why some treatments work well for some patients and not others. So we ask patients if we can collect their blood samples before and after treatment to understand how their immune system changes with treatment. The technology we have now allows us to see these changes in remarkable detail, so we are learning how to develop biomarkers to help pick the right treatment for each patient—and our patients actively participate in that process.”

Deepak Rao, MD, PhD,
Co-Director, Human Immunology Center

Portrait of D.A. Henderson

“D.A. Henderson’s vaccine research eradicated smallpox in a little over a decade, and made it so polio and measles outbreaks are now headline events. How do you say ‘Thank you!’ for a problem you didn’t get?”

Lindsey R. Baden, MD,
Director of Clinical Research, Division of Infectious Diseases and Co-Director, Center for Clinical Investigation

Portrait of Stacy Smith, MD

“Our gout project started as an abdominal imaging technique used years ago to identify different kinds of material in kidney stones. It worked so well, someone thought, “Why can’t we use this in the musculoskeletal world?” Now, instead of inserting a needle in an already painful joint, we can use this imaging technique and tell patients whether they have gout—and if so, how much—with no chance of infection or pain from the invasive test. It’s a huge relief to patients and clinicians.”

Stacy Smith, MD,
Section Chief, Musculoskeletal Imaging and Intervention

Portrait of Paul B. Shyn, MD, PhD

“Most relevant to my work is basic science research exploring ways to selectively target cancer cells based on molecular signatures. This relates to targeted drug therapies, as well as targeted or molecular imaging, and interventional radiology. For example, molecular imaging in the interventional PET/CT suite may allow us to cryoablate or microwave ablate a tumor that is only visible based on this type of imaging.”

Paul B. Shyn, MD, PhD,
Associate Radiologist and Medical Director of Cross-Sectional Interventional Radiology



Illustrations by Michael Hoewele