How CHF Patients can Take Advantage of Translational Research
In nature every action spawns a separate and equal reaction. In the field of medicine, the reaction may not always be equal to the action. The performance of a particular treatment in the lab on test animals may not be the same as would be seen in a human subject; this is where the field of translational research comes in.
Translational research takes research from the laboratory to the patient’s bedside. This can be done in several forms. In its earliest stages a treatment will undergo controlled clinical trials with a voluntary group of test subjects. If these small, controlled tests meet the acceptable range of success the treatment is then taken to research hospitals such as St. Jude’s or Children’s Hospital of Boston. Here patients are given the opportunity to experience new methods of control and treatment of a disease with the understanding that it is still considered highly experimental; however, for many these treatments represent a chance for a cure that previously as out of reach for them as the moon.
Congestive heart failure is, at the moment, an incurable event, occurring when for whatever reason the cells of the heart muscle are destroyed and the heart can no longer adequately pump blood throughout the body. Once the cells in the heart tissue are non-functional the body is unable to replace them, making it impossible for the heart to regain full heart function on its own. The current mortality rate is high, and over fifty percent of patients with congestive heart failure will die within five years of being diagnosed. There are many treatment options currently being considered for congestive heart failure, however, and a number of new technologies being tested daily. For example, Montefiore Medical Center in New York City is currently doing clinical trials on a drug known as Lovosimendan, a calcium sensitizer that does not trigger cardiac arrhythmia, and research into the possibility of using stem cells to regrow cardiac tissue is ongoing.
For a patient to take advantage of these options they should discuss the possibility of being a subject for clinical testing with their physician to see if they would be a good candidate, then allow the physician to make a recommendation on a course of action from there. It may be suggested that the patient contact a research facility, or the physician may suggest their name for a clinical trial they know is occurring soon. If the patient lives in an area with a research hospital nearby, chances are there will be an opportunity for them to benefit from the hospital’s policy on translational research.
It should be understood that translational research is precisely what it sounds like; research. Scientists and doctors are often still learning about the treatment and its effect on the human body, and there is always a possibility that it will be unsuccessful or carry with it many hazardous side effects. These courses of treatments are unknowns to physician and researcher alike. For patients who have run out of options, however, even the possibility of a negative effect cannot stifle what the opportunity to be part of a translational research project provides: hope.