Thomas Willis Lecture: Is Translational Stroke Research Broken, and if So, How Can We Fix It?

Stroke. 2016 Aug;47(8):2148-53. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.116.013244. Epub 2016 Jun 28.


Based on research, mainly in rodents, tremendous progress has been made in our basic understanding of the pathophysiology of stroke. After many failures, however, few scientists today deny that bench-to-bedside translation in stroke has a disappointing track record. I here summarize many measures to improve the predictiveness of preclinical stroke research, some of which are currently in various stages of implementation: We must reduce preventable (detrimental) attrition. Key measures for this revolve around improving preclinical study design. Internal validity must be improved by reducing bias; external validity will improve by including aged, comorbid rodents of both sexes in our modeling. False-positives and inflated effect sizes can be reduced by increasing statistical power, which necessitates increasing group sizes. Compliance to reporting guidelines and checklists needs to be enforced by journals and funders. Customizing study designs to exploratory and confirmatory studies will leverage the complementary strengths of both modes of investigation. All studies should publish their full data sets. On the other hand, we should embrace inevitable NULL results. This entails planning experiments in such a way that they produce high-quality evidence when NULL results are obtained and making these available to the community. A collaborative effort is needed to implement some of these recommendations. Just as in clinical medicine, multicenter approaches help to obtain sufficient group sizes and robust results. Translational stroke research is not broken, but its engine needs an overhauling to render more predictive results.

Keywords: biostatistics; neuroprotection; research design; stroke; translational medical research.

Publication types

  • Lecture

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Publishing
  • Stroke*
  • Translational Research, Biomedical*