There is immense amount of preclinical research being conducted every day, all with the goal to potentially improve clinical practice. Preclinical research has its pros and cons compared to clinical work. On the positive side, it allows you to thoroughly assess pathophysiological mechanisms, to evaluate potential harm and to conduct blinded, controlled trials that in some cases would not be clinically possible. On the other hand, preclinical research is being performed using animals and test tubes that rarely resembles the patient’s situation. This sometimes makes it difficult to translate results into clinical use.
With all the work, resources and animal lives being put into it, there is a responsibility to assess its actual applicability in the clinic. Constructing systematic reviews allows for informative summaries of effects. It gives you an overview on where the evidence currently stands from a preclinical view, and from this, it may be used to support decision-making, and to drive the field forward. In order to evaluate the translational probability, however, you also need to evaluate the certainty of the evidence.
The GRADE approach allows you to rate the certainty of evidence in systematic reviews. It is mainly used in the clinical field, yet it is slowly being applied in the preclinical field as well. In the video below, Prof. Dr. Carlijn Hooijmans from the Department for Health Evidence Unit SYRCLE in the Netherlands takes you through the steps of using GRADE for preclinical studies. The goal is ideally to bridge the gap between animal and human research – to translate evidence from bench to bedside.
If you want to read more about GRADE in preclinical research – check out this paper.