community · Social · technology

Social Media Powers Medical Research

An interesting social experiment as well as clinical study, from the Wall Street Journal; while the study itself, which looked at using Lithium to treat ASL (Lou Gehrigs disease) found the treatment didn’t work, they DID find that using social networks to recruit people for the study turned out to be incredibly effective.

The new study, published online in the journal Nature Biotechnology, represents an early example of how social networking could play a role in clinical trials, an area of medical science with strict procedures that many would consider especially difficult to apply in the online world.

“The approach has tremendous potential,” said Lee Hartwell, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist now at Arizona State University, and formerly president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Standard clinical trials play a central role in the research enterprise of both of those institutions.

Dr. Hartwell, who wasn’t involved in the study, said social-network trials aren’t likely to replace conventional randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials, the gold-standard for generating medical evidence. But such trials have become so complicated and time-consuming that new models are needed, he said.

Read more about the study

I think this is a great example of the power of communities, whether they exist online or are geographically-based, or both. People with illnesses and their families need support networks, which they find online. I think this is great that doctors and clinicians are also able to tap into these communities and ask for their input and insight into the treatment. Not only is it a great instant resource for the doctors, it loops the patients back into the whole treatment process.