For decades, biomedical research has had two basic contexts for inquiry: in vitro, such as in cell cultures or a petri dish, and in vivo, meaning in a living organism. Lately, with the growing amounts of available data and increasing power of computer modeling, in silico research has also emerged as a viable third option in some situations. But so far, in silico work remains dependent on findings from the lab bench.

Not surprisingly, in vitro research platforms are typically faster and less expensive than in vivo work, but they come with significant limitations. For example, investigations into complex diseases, which involve the interplay of multiple systems within the body, generally depend on in vivo research. That said, it can be difficult to translate biological discoveries made in model organisms back to human systems and clinical progress. And while we cannot experiment on humans in the same way, there are some aspects to human function that are difficult or impossible to recreate in a different organism. Read more