Bring Medical Research Back to 'Bedside', Say Trio

The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, February 4, 2016 | Go to article overview

Bring Medical Research Back to 'Bedside', Say Trio


Oxford scientists claim new areas of focus have led to neglect of physiology. David Matthews writes

Breakthroughs in basic science have failed to translate into better care for patients because medical scientists are insufficiently trained to do "bedside" research, three academics from the University of Oxford have warned.

They have calculated that since the beginning of the 20th century a dwindling number of Nobel prizewinners for physiology or medicine have actually held medical degrees.

From 1901 to 1960, what they call "clinician-scientists" won 73 per cent of Nobel prizes. But since then, this proportion has dropped to 43 per cent, and to less than 30 per cent since the turn of the century.

Alastair Buchan, head of Oxford's medical sciences division, said that over the past 50 years, medical research had undergone two major revolutions: a "mathematical revolution" that examined the impact of lifestyle factors on the incidence of disease in a population; and a surge of interest in basic cell biology. But these two strands of medical research "don't talk to each other very well", he said, and the focus on these two new areas had led to a neglect of physiology - of how entire living systems go wrong.

Seduced by the new science

"The problem is that it's very difficult to get funding over the past 30 years to understand what happens to an organ system," he said. "The funding agencies have been seduced by the new science."

Population health departments have received big investments, while physiology, anatomy and pharmacology departments had withered, he claimed. …

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