Basic research

The basis for medical innovation

Researchers involved in basic research are curious: They want to trace the mechanisms that drive complex processes in nature, and do so in an unbiased, systematic and accurate way. They create the basis for new machines and procedures in all scientific disciplines. However, often the valuable contribution from the research institutions is only apparent in retrospect.

This also applies for basic medical research. Standard procedures that are well established today, such as heart surgery, would be impossible without the knowledge gathered over centuries of research into electricity and other topics. Basic research is a continuous process. Scientists around the world are working to improve the conditions for development of new medical therapies and medications

An overview of basic medical research

According to the traditional view, the immediate search for new active ingredients and/or therapeutic approaches only begins once basic research has created the necessary basis of knowledge. Using these results, other colleagues in application-related research can understand the true causes of disease patterns. This is very valuable: After all, it is the only way to ensure targeted treatment of the actual causes of the disease. Apart from random discoveries, the only other option is treatment of symptoms.

Can’t always be separated Basic research and applied research

Basic researchers seek to understand the underlying interactions between cells, organs or whole organisms that are responsible for biological processes. To do so they look at extremely complex systems with numerous components. The best example is the human brain: It is responsible for millions of cells that are in constant interaction. In addition to real-time processing of sensory perceptions, the brain is also responsible for permanent learning and thinking processes. Here in particular, in the neurosciences, basic research scientists have an open field of research. Only through improved understanding of neuronal processes can therapy options for brain diseases be significantly expanded.

However, the narrower purpose of basic research is not application-related, but simply the multiplication of knowledge. In basic research, the question of how a specific disease occurs is the dominating focus. The guiding principle in applied and most commercial research, on the other hand, is the search for an active ingredient with which the biochemical process can be influenced. Medical progress requires both basic research and applied research.

In addition to the sequential transition from basic research to applied research, there is also an increasingly different approach – translational research. Closer exchange between research institutions, clinics and the industry intends to significantly reduce the time lag between finding new approaches as part of research and subsequent clinical development. Specialists from numerous disciplines, such as biochemistry, bio-engineering, biomedicine, pharmaceuticals, statistics and chemistry are constantly exchanging ideas. Particularly in biomedical research, it is hardly possible to distinguish between the two areas. This is because the work on physiological foundations is just as important for medical progress as development of a specific medication.

Current questions for basic medical research

Basic research is a continuous process of gaining knowledge. At the same time, medical research is constantly faced with new challenges. Current examples include research into common diseases such as diabetes, cancer or dementia. There are also allergies and infectious diseases that affect an increasing number of people. The most important fields of research include system biology, genome research and neuroscience.

An example from the field of molecular active ingredient biochemistry: Here, scientists are working on the early development of active ingredients for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. In the pre-clinical setting, they begin the search for target proteins. As part of this, they examine possible active substances that can prevent the harmful influence of the triggering enzyme on the metabolism. They then subject them to further investigation. In vitro live test systems using living cells play an important role in research laboratories.

Temperature control applications for in vitro test systems

The quality of the sample material has a great influence on the test results. If scientists manage to handle the cells delicately throughout the entire process, they can create the best starting conditions. Another aspect: Efficient work is also crucial for rapid progress in basic research. For this purpose, the laboratories make use of the technical possibilities for preserving and multiplying cells. Temperature control solutions play a decisive role in this. For example, cryopreserved cells, which are often used, must be thawed in a water bath at exactly the right temperature. The cell material can only be optimally regenerated under specific conditions. Temperatures that are too high can cause the cells to die, while temperatures that are too low slow down the metabolic processes.

New cell culture technologies also allow for efficient multiplication of high-quality samples. Testing optimal cell culture conditions for specific cells is also an important field of research. For example, the ability to remove partial quantities from the culture significantly increases productivity. Thermo-responsive microcarriers make this possible. Here, too, temperature control applications are the focus: By temporarily lowering the cell culture temperature from 37 to 32 °C, the cells detach from the growth surface. The required quantity of cells is then ready for use. The circulator connected to the bioreactor raises the temperature back to the set level after collection so that the remaining cells can continue to multiply.

Standard task in basic research: Temperature control application

Temperature control of samples, laboratory devices and cultures is a routine task in basic medical research laboratories. Precise compliance with the temperature range is a core requirement. After all, the temperature of the devices often has a direct effect on cell material.

A high level of temperature stability in the water baths eliminates unwanted temperature fluctuations. Devices for demanding applications can be counter-cooled for this purpose. Intuitively designed adjustment options ensure convenient and safe operation. Accessories such as test tube racks or shelves also contribute to this.

Depending on the application, circulators in a variety of designs can be used. These include heating immersion circulators and bath circulators, but also circulators that are suitable for temperature control of external applications. Basic research laboratories also often have increased requirements for the universal usability of their instruments. With a wide working temperature range and a variety of designs, JULABO instruments offer the necessary flexibility. The range of accessories allows adaptation to customer-specific applications.