SOUND OFF | The Bioethics of Biomedical Research
Biomedical research and engineering, genetics, biotech — these are all disciplines rising in popularity among research, academics and scientists, and with a similar goal in mind: they emphasize the use of multi-disciplinary teams to ensure quick “bench-to-bed” results which translate basic scientific research to the medical community and then to the patient. Yet these rising disciplines are gaining ground at such a fast pace that many scientists and physicians have begun to neglect an important aspect of translational research: the native and marginalized populations around the globe that are heavily involved in the medical research, yet rarely reap its benefits. The most illuminating examples of excruciating difficult ethical questions can be seen in the emerging study of the human gut microbiome. Researchers now believe that this microbiome, composed of millions of diverse bacteria in the human gut, plays an integral but not yet fully understood role in human health. It may hold the key to understanding a wide variety of chronic diseases, among them allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and most directly, obesity.