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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 2-4

Research in anatomy: Challenges and opportunities amid the COVID-19 pandemic

1 Department of Anatomy, JSS Medical College, JSSAHER, Mysore, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Anatomy, Azeezia Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Kollam, Kerala, India
3 Department of Anatomy, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

Date of Submission04-Jan-2022
Date of Decision06-Jan-2022
Date of Acceptance07-Jan-2022
Date of Web Publication01-Feb-2022

Correspondence Address:
Kumar Satish Ravi
Department of Anatomy, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/NJCA.NJCA_5_22

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How to cite this article:
Pushpa N B, Viveka S, Ravi KS. Research in anatomy: Challenges and opportunities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Natl J Clin Anat 2022;11:2-4

How to cite this URL:
Pushpa N B, Viveka S, Ravi KS. Research in anatomy: Challenges and opportunities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Natl J Clin Anat [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Jul 1];11:2-4. Available from: http://www.njca.info/text.asp?2022/11/1/2/337043

  COVID-19 Pandemic and Academic Research Top

The ongoing pandemic resulted in devastating effects on scores of human lives. The detrimental effects have touched almost all arenas globally, and medical education and academic research is not immune to it.[1] Contract research organizations undertaking clinical trials have moved to centralized and remote patient monitoring.[2] However, academic medical research depending purely on the full functionality of hospitals and teaching institutions has suffered the most. Although the apex bodies including the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Medical Council went smooth with many of the deadlines, the principal investigators left handicapped with dwindling clinical resources. The pandemic has hit not only clinical departments but also pre- and paraclinical departmental research activities just alike. Adding to these chaos, the department of anatomy also has to suffer from a lack of cadavers secondary to regulatory restrictions in embalming and accepting the donated dead bodies.[3] This has resulted in a severe shortage of learning material for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. Extension of body shortage also hampered all gross anatomical and histology-related research activities in the anatomy department. Many of the postgraduate academic research projects got delayed because of inadequate cadavers. From the experience from the National Journal of Clinical Anatomy, we have seen that over 70% of submitted scientific manuscripts are from gross anatomy and osteology directly or indirectly dependent on cadavers. This reflects Over-reliance of the cadaveric dissection process for the academic research activities in the department of anatomy across medical institutions of the country.[4]

SARS-CoV-2 has continued its unending saga of mutations to evade the host immune responses.[5] Of late, Delta and Omicron are the declared variants of concern.[6] Many more variants may be expected. With these mutations, the virus transmissibility has increased resulting in super-spreading SARS CoV2 infections leading to the imposition of lockdown like restrictions.[7] The researchers, including faculty and postgraduates in the pre- and paraclinical departments, prepare for such untoward events and choose the research topics accordingly. In the following sections, we address the challenges and opportunities for research in anatomy [Figure 1] during COVID-19-induced restrictions.
Figure 1: Challenges and opportunities for conduct of academic research in the department of anatomy during COVID-induced lockdown like situations

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  Challenges Top

  1. Lack of cadavers leading to inadequate study material for gross and histological research studies
  2. Risk of acquiring infections is high if the clinical departments are involved
  3. Nonavailability of expert clinician guidance and support for research secondary to rise in patient care burden.

  Opportunities Top

Animal models and preclinical trials

Animal models have been used to address an assortment of scientific questions, from basic science to the development and assessment of novel vaccines, or therapies. Remarkable anatomical and physiological similarities between humans and animals, particularly mammals, have prompted researchers to investigate a large range of structures and mechanisms. Animal studies are not widely practised, particularly among anatomists (in India). The main hindrance is again stringent laws regarding animal handling and funding. But if there is an availability of well-maintained animal houses and easy access to procuring experimental animals, animal experiments are the best area to proceed.

Cell-line biomedical research

Cell culture being a versatile tool for basic and translational research is well utilized for research in few centers.[8] Cell culture laboratories with good cell lines are assets to any institution and provide an opportunity for experimental research in molecular biology at a large scale.[9] Cell lines can provide indefinite sources of biological material for biomedical research purposes.[9]

Translational research

It encompasses harnessing knowledge from basic sciences to improve patient care. This growing research field is considered as future of human anatomy in medical schools as it revolves around the essential anatomy required and redefining the disease process and patient care.[10] Identification of a surgical or clinical complication and finding a solution by better understanding of underlying anatomy facilitated through cadaveric dissection constitutes reverse translational research. As such, not much has been conquered in this relatively new arena and has exciting and promising research opportunities.[11]

Comparative anatomical research

It is yet another area that is least explored by anatomists (of India). Along with comparative anatomy, more meaningful insight can be added by studying microanatomy/physiology in accordance with applied aspects.

COVID-related research

COVID has opened up a plethora of opportunities for research, and many funding agencies are actively supporting such research activities. Especially with the vaccine efficacy, dosing frequency, interval, booster dosing, mixing and matching, effects of comorbid conditions, mortality, morbidity studies, safety, and efficacy of antiviral medications, vaccines are in vogue in many parts of the world. Academicians can actively participate in protocol writing, data collection, validation, data review, statistical analysis and medical writing. There is no dearth of opportunities for extended research studies with COVID.[12]

Medical educational research

Currently, as we are following Competency Based Medical Education for MBBS, there are ample opportunities for studies in the field of medical education. Starting from the foundation course, flipped classrooms, assessment etc. Research can be undertaken in many aspects of new curriculum Instructional designs and assessment. Fostering a vigorous procedure, developing a robust methodology, critical analysis, and presentation of results are very essential. Studies can be done illuminating existing strategies and other innovative methods used in teaching and learning. During this pandemic, there was a surge in the studies related to online teaching assessment, students/teachers' perspectives.[13]

AYUSH research

Apex bodies and funding agencies have geared up to disseminate the knowledge of AYUSH systems through extensive support and funding. Similar support is also extended to scholars, institutions, and organizations involved in research on the history of medicine and allied disciplines. When the gap between the modern medicine and Indian system of medicine is narrowing, and the patients are treated with a multitude of medical practices, allopathy doctors may actively pursue research in AYUSH sciences and explore the possibilities.

Educational technology research

The use of technology in medical education has been the key changes during pandemic-induced online education. Therefore, more insight and exploration of technology, especially the use of three-dimensional anatomical models, virtual dissection methods can aide in skill training which is a built-in requirement of new curriculum.[14] Research in such educational technologies can open up a plethora of possibilities and improve student engagement translating to better knowledge transfer.

Interdepartmental research

Anatomical sciences is not an isolated learning exercise. Surgical and radiological methods draw heavily from basic anatomy; therefore, any research in anatomy ideally involves these clinical departments for a better correlation and applicability.

Literature review

Various types of reviews, including narrative review, scoping review, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses can be performed to seek, appraise, and synthesize the scientific evidence from already published data.[15],[16]

Our minds can atrophy very much like our muscles, and conducting research whether formal or casual is an incredible method for keeping our cerebrums sound and dynamic. The more you connect with your insightful brain, the better prepared you will be to assess data, simply decide, tackle issues, and participate and engage in meaningful discussions.

  References Top

Mourad M, Bousleiman S, Wapner R, Gyamfi-Bannerman C. Conducting research during the COVID-19 pandemic. Semin Perinatol 2020;44:151287.  Back to cited text no. 1
Daly B, Lauria TS, Holland JC, Garcia J, Majeed J, Walters CB, et al. Oncology patients' perspectives on remote patient monitoring for COVID-19. JCO Oncol Pract 2021;17:e1278-85.  Back to cited text no. 2
Ravi KS. Dead body management in times of COVID-19 and its potential impact on the availability of cadavers for medical education in India. Anat Sci Educ 2020;13:316-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
Patra A, Chaudhary P, Ravi KS. Adverse impact of COVID-19 on anatomical sciences teachers of India and proposed ways to handle this predicament. Anat Sci Educ 2021;14:163-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
Vaughan A. Omicron emerges. New Sci 2021;252:7.  Back to cited text no. 5
Russell RS. Omicron: A speculation on its potential superpowers. Viral Immunol 2021;34:664-5.  Back to cited text no. 6
Thakur V, Ratho RK. OMICRON (B.1.1.529): A new SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern mounting worldwide fear. J Med Virol 2021. [doi: 10.1002/jmv. 27541].  Back to cited text no. 7
Segeritz CP, Vallier L. Cell Culture: Growing Cells as Model Systems In Vitro. Basic Science Methods for Clinical Researchers. 2017:151-72. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-803077-6.00009-6.   Back to cited text no. 8
Mirabelli P, Coppola L, Salvatore M. Cancer cell lines are useful model systems for medical research. Cancers (Basel) 2019;11:1098.  Back to cited text no. 9
Choi PJ, Tubbs RS, Oskouian RJ. The current trend of the translational research paradigm. Cureus 2018;10:e2340.  Back to cited text no. 10
Tubbs S. What is “Reverse” translational research in anatomy? Natl J Clin Anat 2019;8:48.  Back to cited text no. 11
  [Full text]  
Holmes EA, O'Connor RC, Perry VH, Tracey I, Wessely S, Arseneault L, et al. Multidisciplinary research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic: A call for action for mental health science. Lancet Psychiatry 2020;7:547-60.  Back to cited text no. 12
Dhawan S. Online learning: A panacea in the time of COVID-19 crisis. J Educ Technol Sys 2020;49:5-22.  Back to cited text no. 13
Kolla S, Elgawly M, Gaughan JP, Goldman E. Medical student perception of a virtual reality training module for anatomy education. Med Sci Educ 2020;30:1201-10.  Back to cited text no. 14
Paré G, Kitsiou S. Chapter 9 methods for literature reviews. In: Handbook of eHealth Evaluation: An Evidence-based Approach. University of Victoria; 2017. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK481583/. [Last accessed on 2022 Jan 06].  Back to cited text no. 15
Snyder H. Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines. J Bus Res 2019;104:333-9.  Back to cited text no. 16


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