Doctor’s Orders- Go to the Pub (Med)

Pubmed, is a free online library with over 25 million scientific articles referenced. This online resource is commonly used by health professionals and health researchers alike, to search for journal articles published in relation to pretty much anything which is health-related.

For most of us, it’s a daunting idea to start trawling through medical jargon in search of answers, but, as most of the journals in pubmed are peer-reviewed, then the information on Pubmed has been filtered by a type of anti-spam medical sieve before being accessible via the pubmed website. You are therefore less likely to read un-informed literature and you are more likely to educate yourself with good quality health information.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say that a radio broadcast has just mentioned that a paralysed Polish man has learned to walk again following pioneering surgery to his severed spinal cord. This sounds fascinating and you want to learn more, so you  search the news online, find the article and you scroll to the end of the article to click on related links. The links are fascinating and whet your appetite to learn more about stem cell treatments in spinal cord injuries, but your horizons are limited by the number of links available to you in relation to the article.  Enter Pubmed. As soon as you start typing your query in the search box, several suggestions pop up online, as in the illustration below:​

Let’s say that you decide to look at what’s available in Pubmed for stem cell transplantation (the fourth one down in the suggestion panel). You get 93,761 articles back for this search (when accessed May 19th 2016- I bet there are more now!).

Maybe you would like to reduce the number of articles to make it more manageable. The left hand column gives you filters that you can add, such as asking to only see artices with free full text available online. This option reduces the article number to 34,558 full text articles online. That’s still alot of reading material. Let’s say that you really only want to know what the latest news is, in relation to stem cell transplantation. So we can limit the articles to those published, say, in 2016 alone (that’s 605 full text articles). The left hand column allows you to limit your search to specific date ranges. But we still have a lot of articles to read, even for a five month period from January to May 2016. We can limit again, this time to, say, human studies alone (ie no animal research). We are now down to 6 full text free online articles reporting on human studies of stem cell transplantation published in 2016.

You have just executed your own online research into stem cell transplantation. Congratulations!

Here’s one of the six papers that you have successfully filtered out to read the latest on stem cell transplantation, published in March 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine.