Research

Our team of researchers bridge the various departments and divisions across the UA Health Sciences, bringing a breadth of interests, expertise and accomplishment rare to find. Their labs exist not just within our division, but in the UA Health Sciences’ various institutes and centers of excellence to study aging, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular conditions, endocrine, hypertension, liver, kidney and metabolic issues, respiratory diseases and beyond. We provide a collaborative link between the research, academic and clinical settings.

Our research can be broken down into several categories: basic research, translational research, regenerative medicine, clinical research, and population health research.

The cycle of health research: Basic scientific discovery, clinical insights, implications for practice, implications for community, evaluation of health impact on world populationsBasic Research

A systematic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena. It is executed without thought of a practical end goal, without specific applications or products in mind. It includes all branches of science and engineering. It has also been described as arising out of curiosity. Basic research is contrasted with applied research, which is research focused on a particular problem or application. Basic research lays the foundation for advancements in knowledge that lead to applied gains later on, occasionally as a result of unexpected discoveries.

Translational Research

Commonly referred to as translational medicine, this is a discipline within biomedical and public health research that aims to improve the health of people and communities by “translating” scientific findings obtained from laboratories into diagnostic tools, therapeutic strategies, healthcare policies, and medical/public education. Translational health sciences use a multi-, trans- and inter-disciplinary, highly collaborative, “bench-to-bedside” and “bedside-to-bench” approach in translating ideas into clinical solutions to benefit people’s health. The National Institutes of Health has made a significant push to fund translational research with a focus on cross-functional collaborations between researchers and clinicians; developing new technology and data analysis tools; and expediting the process for new treatments to reach patients.

To enhance translational health sciences research, we must encourage our clinicians, including clinically active faculty members, clinical fellows and health professionals, to collaborate with investigators and researchers in the basic science departments at the University of Arizona Health Sciences (UAHS) and on the UA main campus. Basic science researchers can learn from clinicians to identify important questions in health sciences and health care, and then to guide their research towards to answering these clinically relevant questions, develop disease-oriented basic and translational research projects, provide scientific discoveries to answer questions related to pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease, and ultimately, improve patient care. Clinicians can learn from basic science researchers to find scientific and technical answers of clinically important questions in their daily work in improving health of patients. The joint approaches from “bench-to-bedside” and “bedside-to-bench” are the center of translational health sciences research.

Regenerative Medicine

A game-changing area of medicine with the potential to fully heal damaged tissues and organs, offering solutions and hope for people who have conditions that today are beyond our current ability to cure or provide significant relief. Regenerative medicine is a branch of translational research in biomedicine which deals with the “process of replacing, engineering or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function.” This field holds the promise of engineering damaged tissues and organs via stimulating the body's own repair mechanisms to functionally heal previously irreparable tissues or organs. Regenerative medicine refers to a group of biomedical approaches to clinical therapies that may involve the use of stem cells or progenitor cells.

Examples include the injection of stem cells or progenitor cells (cell therapies); the induction of regeneration by biologically active molecules administered alone or as a secretion by infused cells (immunomodulation therapy); and transplantation of in vitro grown organs and tissues (tissue engineering). Regenerative medicine also includes the possibility of growing tissues and organs in the laboratory and safely implanting them when the body cannot heal itself. If a regenerated organ’s cells would be derived from the patient’s own tissue or cells, this would potentially solve the problem of the shortage of organs available for donation, and the problem of organ transplant rejection. Regenerative medicine holds the promise of definitive, affordable health-care solutions that heal the body from within.

Three major approaches involved in the research related to regenerative medicine and cell therapy are: i) Rejuvenation (boosting the body's natural ability to heal itself), ii) Replacement (using healthy cells, tissues or organs from a living or deceased donor to replace damaged ones), and iii) Regeneration (delivering specific types of stem/progenitor cells or cell products to diseased tissues or organs to restore tissue and organ function).

Clinical Research

A branch of health-care science that determines the safety and effectiveness of medications, devices, diagnostic products and treatment regimens intended for human use. These may be used for prevention, treatment, diagnosis or for relieving symptoms of a disease. Clinical research is different from clinical practice. In clinical practice, one uses established treatments, while in clinical research, evidence is collected to establish a treatment. The term clinical research refers to any test article from its inception in the laboratory to its introduction to the consumer market and beyond. Once the promising candidate or the molecule is identified in the laboratory, it is subjected to pre-clinical studies or animal studies where different aspects of the test article (including its safety, toxicity, efficacy, if applicable) are studied.

Clinical research is often conducted at academic medical centers and affiliated research study sites. These centers and sites provide the prestige of the academic institution as well as access to larger metropolitan areas, providing a larger pool of medical participants. The clinical research ecosystem involves a complex network of sites, pharmaceutical companies and academic research institutions.

3 steps of clinical studies: phase I, phase II, phase III

Population Health Research

A scientific discipline to study “the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.” It is an approach to health that aims to improve the health of an entire human population. A priority considered important in achieving this aim is to reduce health inequities or disparities among different population groups due to, among other factors, the social determinants of health (SDOH). The SDOH include all the factors: social, environmental, cultural and physical, the different populations one is born into, grow ups and functions within throughout their lifetimes which potentially have a measurable impact on the health of human populations. The population health concept represents a change in the focus from the individual level, characteristic of most mainstream medicine. It also seeks to complement the classic efforts of public health agencies by addressing a broader range of factors shown to impact the health of different populations.

Our Research Programs

Currently, ongoing research programs in the Division of Translational and Regenerative Medicine include: