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Investigate the role of forced expression of Programmed Death-Ligand1 on mesenchymal stem cells on immunomodulatory properties in vitro. 31 May 2018

Despite success in in-vitro and in pre-clinical models, the therapeutic efficacy of mesenchymal stem or stromal cells (MSCs) is somewhat limited. In this project, we will investigate two different strategies to enhance their therapeutic efficacy by forced expression of Programmed Death-Ligand1. PD-L1 expression has been shown to protect cells and tissues from T-Cell mediated cell death. Recent work carried out by Prof.Ritter’s lab showed that overexpression of PD-L1 on corneal tissue before transplantation significantly prolongs corneal allograft survival upon transplantation in allogeneic recipients. This indicates a pivotal role for PD-L1 in immunomodulation. Additionally and as of interest, preliminary data indicate that expression of PD-L1 is highly up-regulated on licensed MSCs or on MSC treated with tumor conditioned medium (TCM) indicating a role in immune evasion of tumors. We aim to understand if forced expression of PD-L1 enhances the immunoregulatory properties of these MSCs in vitro. We will attempt to achieve this using either lentiviral gene transfer of PD-L1 or licensing with tumor-conditioned medium. This research will contribute significant data to the development of novel treatment protocols for patients suffering from inflammatory conditions such as impaired wound healing in diabetes and ocular surface injuries.

Characterisation of Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) released by 4T1 breast cancer cells 31 May 2018

Extracellular vesicles(EVs) are tiny vesicles that shuttle genetic information between cells, and throughout the circulation. MicroRNAs(miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression. This study will focus on EV-encapsulated microRNAs(EVmiRs). The host group recently published work showing a potent tumor suppressor role for miRNA-379 in breast cancer. Tumour-targeted delivery of the miR was achieved by harnessing the natural homing capacity of Mesenchymal Stem Cells(MSCs) engineered to over-express miR-379. The MSCs were found to release miR-379 in EVs, and the miR-379 enriched EVs were shown to reduce breast cancer growth in vivo. This study was performed in immunocompromised animals and must be expanded to take the host immune system into account. This will be achieved using murine 4T1 breast cancer cells in immune competent animals. It is necessary to first establish the characteristics of EVs released from these cells. The aim of this study is to define the EV-miR profile of 4T1 cells in vitro. The data generated will inform a subsequent In Vivo study, where EVmiRs detected in vitro will be compared to those detected in the bloodstream of mice bearing 4T1 tumours. This will provide a potential biomarker of disease progression or response to MSC-EV therapy.

Sleep Disturbance in Older Adults in the Emergency Department: Prevalence, Predictors and Outcomes Comparing Frail and Non-frail Patients 31 May 2018

The overall aim of this study is to show the impact of poor sleep at baseline and in particular during ED overnight stay on older adults comparing the effects on those identifed as frail or non-frail (robust). The specific objectives are to: (1) Examine the prevalence of pre-existing sleep impairment using a validated sleep measure, (2) Investigate which independent variables are associated with poor sleep in an ED including individual objective (demographics, existing sleep problems, admission diagnosis, Barthel Index ADL score, 4AT delirium score, co-morbidities and polypharmacy including use of hypnotics), subjective (percieved sleep quality and quality of life) environmental (noise levels) and logistical (triage score, total duration boarding in ED, location of trolley in ED) factors. (3) Evaluate the impact of sleep disturbance (baseline and overnight) in the ED on patient satisfaction and adverse healthcare outcomes (including LOS, 30 day-mortality and 30-day redmission rates, need for rehabilitation) adjusting for individual factors, in an older cohort of patients (aged > 70) admitted through the ED of a large Irish university teaching hospital (UHG).

Biomedical Vacation Scholarship 22 Jun 2015

Not available

Amount: £48,000
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: National University of Ireland Galway

Knowledge, Attitude and Behaviours of Medical Students Towards Sexual Health 27 Apr 2017

Sexual health is a key component to a holistic approach to health frequently overlooked as quite a taboo subject. Medical students as future healthcare professionals and advocates of a healthy lifestyle, it is therefore critical that they understand the importance of their own sexual health and that of their future parents. As part of my research project I plan to investigate the knowledge attitudes and behaviours of undergraduate medical students around sexual health. Notably focussing on the areas of contraception, STI’s, sexual activity and how students feel their knowledge in these areas has been influenced by the medical curriculum. As well as this identifying where possible influential factors such as social, cultural, personal, economic and educational. This study will be carried out following extensive literary reviews in the areas, before compiling a questionnaire for distribution in a cross-sectional survey of undergraduate medical students. The results obtained will be entered into SPSS for cleaning and analyses. This data can then be used a comparison against both national and international based studies. Highlighting any new data. Finally dissemination of findings, via Wellcome Trust research report, conference presentation and peer reviewed journal article.

Investigation of the Signalling Pathways Underpinning the Enhanced Immunosuppressive Phenotype of Tumour Associated Mesenchymal Stromal Cells 27 Apr 2017

The aim of this project is to understand how stromal cells underlying the colonic crypts interact with the epithelial tumour cells, protecting them from immune mediated destruction. The research objective will be to identify if activation of transcription factors, such as NF-kappa-B and STAT are necessary for the heightened immunosuppressive phenotype observed in tumour conditioned stromal cells. Research will be carried out using syngenic models of colon cancer in vitro, including Balb/c metastatic colon cancer cells, Balb/c mesenchymal stromal cells and Balb/c CD3+T cells. The research, carried out over the course of an 8 week project will aim to; 1. Confirm the potentiated immunosuppressive ability of tumour conditioned stromal cells 2. Investigate if the enhanced immunosuppressive effect is associated with activation of NFkappaB (p65 phosphorylation) and STAT (STAT3 phosphorylation) using western blotting. The desired outcome of this research project, is to understand the signalling pathways that are activated in tumour associated stromal cells that influence their heightened immunosuppressive potential. As part of Dr Ryan's larger research group, ultimately it is envisaged that this research will identify ways in which these interactions can be targeted and blocked, in order to enhance the immune system's effect on the tumour.

Biomedical Vacation Scholarship 23 Jun 2014

Not available

Amount: £33,750
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: National University of Ireland Galway

Cell explorers a model for sustainable public engagement by third level institutions. 11 Jul 2013

Cell EXPLORERS is an exciting science engagement programme linking university and primary schools. It is the only programme in the West of Ireland to promote biological and biomedical sciences through a practical biology programme. Cell EXPLORERS stimulates interest and excitement through discovery learning in school visits and interactive workshops. The success of Cell EXPLORERS relies on its novel way of bringing teams of volunteer students and researchers to engage with the public in pract ical activities. Cell EXPLORERS has run as a successful pilot project and has been chosen to integrate the science outreach and public engagement programme of the highly research active NUI Galway School of Natural Sciences. This new stage of development will enable sustainable public engagement within SNS, by integrating staff engagement and enabling undergraduate student participation in science education. The objectives of this project are: 1. To develop a model that engages un dergraduate Biochemistry students in biomedical science communication and generates sustainable public engagement tools. This will contribute to the training of the next generation of science ambassadors and science educators. 2. Support formal learning by delivering schools workshops and creating a teacher training programme in collaboration with the Galway Education Centre Further development of Cell EXPLORERS at a larger scale will allow its future integration in the undergraduate curricu lum and its potential use as a STEM promotion model within Ireland and the UK.

Amount: £29,987
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: National University of Ireland Galway

'Problem Patients': Experience of and attitudes towards patients with substance misuse problems' 01 Apr 2016

My research intends to examine levels of empathy and compassion shown by undergraduate medical students in NUIG, with a particular regard on problem drug users, and to assess need for supplementary skills training in these areas. This will be accomplised by establishing patterns of empathy among undergraduate years in medicine and identifiying factors associated with either higher or lower levels of empathy, exploring perceptions and attitudes towards problem drug users and how they change during medical training, and also analysing the desire of students to have more educational opportunities to practice communication skills showing empathy and compassion. Specific objectives include establishing: Current understanding of empathy and its importance in clinical practice among medical students Current patterns of empathy fluctuation in undergraduate medicine Attitudes of students towards substance misuse and problem drug users, and the factors influencing these attitudes If additional education in empathy and compassion be welcomed by students or considered unnecessary Frequency of interactions with patients

'From a source of shame to the pride of the Island:' Disability, Advocacy & the Media in Ireland, 1959-2003. 12 May 2015

This project will examine the treatment and perception of the disabled community in Ireland during the period 1959-2003. Its objectives are fourfold. First, to provide the first detailed history of disability/disability provision in Ireland in this period. Second, to examine how the perception of the disabled changed, from viewing disability as indicative of divine will (necessitating seclusion from broader society), to the view that state policy must show an awareness of the need for self-regul ation and autonomy for members of the Disabled Community. Third, to unravel the impact of those changes in the development of the Irish state's system of disability provision, as the duty of care increasingly shifted towards state mechanisms of support and care. This led to the introduction of new systems of care, provided by the state, including disability benefit and the carer's allowance, fundamentally changing the level of state intervention in their lives. Finally, to provide an insight int o how community integration became the standard mode of disability care and how the current system of state provision for the disabled came into being. Thus, the central research questions will be around what shaped and catalysed change to the care systems for the disabled in Ireland?

Amount: £81,095
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: National University of Ireland Galway

debating Science issues - DSI 16 Sep 2008

Debating Science Issues is a dynamic debating competition where young people are invited to engage in debate on the cultural, societal and ethical implications of advances in biomedical science. Open to senior cycle students of Irish Second Level Education (15-18 years of age), participating students partake in a series of 3 hour workshops teaching the fundamentals of biomedical science (including nanotechnology, stem cell research, genetically modified foods) and facilitating group discussion in an informal round table venue. Providing an open and impartial forum, the workshops challenge students to think about the ethical and societal impacts of biomedical research and stimulate them to delve more deeply into these important areas of research science. This enthusiasm finds an outlet in the debating competition. Inspired by Wellcome Trust funded Debating Matters, DSI is an exciting, interactive debating model where debaters are challenged by judges, peers, teachers, and audience members to defend their positions. Co-hosted by 4 Irish research centres and W5 in Belfast, DSI is a model of classical debate. In its first year, 432 students were involved in biomedical science workshops at 36 schools throughout Ireland. One Hundred One students were directly involved in the DSI debate process. Debating Science Issues is a dynamic debating competition where young people are invited to engage in debate on the cultural, societal and ethical implications of advances in biomedical science. Piloted in 2008, and fine-tuned through reflection on past practice and formal evaluation, DSI has evolved in scope and size.

Amount: £29,659
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: National University of Ireland Galway

Early Irish female medical graduates, 1872-1922 27 May 2008

The primary aim of my project is to illuminate the history of the first women to qualify in medicine in Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first female medical graduates in Ireland qualified with medical licences in 1877 from the King's and Queen's College of Physicians of Ireland, with the first 'lady' medical students matriculating at an Irish university (Queen's College Belfast) in 1889. I have chosen to begin the project in the early 1870s in order to examine the attitudes of the medical profession towards women entering the medical profession and analyse the discussions that led up to the opening of medical examinations to Irish women.

DSI - Debating Science Issues 13 Sep 2007

DSI - Debating Science Issues, is a dynamic debating competition which invites young people to engage in debate on the cultural, societal and ethical implications of advances in biomedical science. Open to students in the senior cycle of Irish Second Level Education (15-18) years), participating students take part in a series of 3 hour workshops which facilitate discussion and learning about biomedical science - from stem cell research to nanotechnology - in an informal round table forum. Providing an open and impartial environment, these workshops challenge students to think about the ethical and societal impact of biomedical research and stimulates them to learn more about this important area of research. This enthusiasm finds an outlet in the debating competition. Inspired by Wellcome Trust funded Debating Matters, DSI - Debating Sciences Issues is a dynamic, exciting and interactive debating model where debaters are challenged by judges, fellow students, teachers and audience members to defend their argument. Co-hosted by 4 Irish research centres and W5 in Belfast, DSI is what true debate is all about.

Amount: £29,560
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: National University of Ireland Galway

"Science and technology on the European Periphery" to be held at the National University of Ireland Galway on 17-20 June 2010 13 Apr 2010

Science and Technology on the European Periphery (STEP) is a network (rather than a society, it has no funding) which includes representatives from a wide range of European countries. Members' work focuses on countries other than Britain, Germany and France which arc traditionally viewed as the major players in the history of science. This meeting is the first to take place in Ireland and will particularly serve to incorporate Ireland's history of science, technology and medicine community into broader European networks. The meeting particularly encourages transnational comparisons. Previous STEP meetings have tended to be dominated by the history of physical sciences. The organizers have explicitly sought to involve historians of the biomedical sciences in this conference in order to make the group more inclusive and interdisciplinary. To this end, Professor Nick Jardine of Cambridge University has been confirmed as a plenary speaker. He will speak on natural history and peripheries in the nineteenth century. Papers on the history of medicine were solicited and form a significant component of the programme. We also wish to invite a second plenary speaker, Daniela Bleichmar (University of Southern California) to speak on the subject of colonial botany and eighteenth-century medicine.

Mitral Valve Reconstruction and Analysis 31 May 2018

Valvular heart disease (VHD) has been described as the ‘next cardiac epidemic’ with 6.5 million new cases of VHD predicted to develop in Europe by 2050. Mitral regurgitation (MR) accounts for 32% of VHD. MR is a condition where the native valve leaflets do not fully close, resulting in backward blood flow from the left ventricle to left atrium. Image-based computational predictive models have excellent clinical potential as an assessment strategy for cardiac devices treating mitral valve dysfunction. However, these computational models are limited. They assume idealised healthy conditions, and often lack validation from human imaging. The project will involve analysing CT (computed tomography) imaging of patients with healthy mitral function (e.g. patients presenting with aortic valve dysfunction) and then patients with mitral dysfunction, specifically mitral regurgitation. The 2D images will be reconstructed into 3D geometries and segmented to extract the mitral valve annulus and bicuspid leaflets, at both open and closed states. Following reconstruction, the geometries will be assessed and the effective orifice area when open will be analysed for healthy and diseased mitral valves. This project will demonstrate the change in leaflet structure with disease and will serve as input to ongoing work in Dr. Conway’s group.

The use of plasma treated graphene oxide in critical limb schema 31 May 2018

The aim of this project will be to determine the angiogenic potential of plasma-coated graphene oxide sheets and their effect on cell viability. The objectives will be to place human umbilical cord endothelial cells(HUVECs) in Matrigel with graphene oxides with varying surface coatings on the graphene oxide. First we will use a plasma reactor to modify the surface properties by increasing the O2 and N2 groups on the surface. HUVECs will then be cultured using EGM-2 complete media before being placed onto Matrigel, along with surface treated graphene oxide. In order to determine the cytotoxic effect of each coating, a Live/Dead assay will be carried out on HUVECs that have been cultured in the presence of plasma-treated graphene oxide sheets after a 48hr culture, using fluorescent detection, while the angiogenic properties of each surface coating will be compared against an uncoated control, with complete media with growth factors being used as a positive control, using ImageJ software which will quantify the number/density and size of the vessels compared to the uncoated control. The ideal result would be a coating that has strong angiogenic properties with minimal cytotoxic properties, which would set the ground work for further in-vitro studies.

Vacation biomedical scholarship 24 Jun 2013

Not available

Amount: £21,240
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: National University of Ireland Galway

Debating Science Issues (DSI) 30 Nov 2011

Not available

Amount: £30,000
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: National University of Ireland Galway

Evaluating the combination of Oncotype DX and Neutrophil/Leukocyte Ratios as prognostic indicators of chemotherapy response in breast cancer. 27 Apr 2017

This research will study the effect of the individual’s immune system on their reoccurrence of breast cancer after chemotherapy. This would be a correlation between the Neutrophil to Lymphocyte Ratio (NLR) and the Oncotype Dx score. Previous research (unpublished) has demonstrated the significance of the NRL in predicting breast cancer outcomes in HER 2 overexpressing and Luminal B breast cancer (accounting for approx. 20% of all breast cancers). We will extend our previous research to include all four cancer subtypes (Luminal A and Triple negative breast cancer). We aim to compare the immune system’s reaction to chemotherapy across all four cancer subtypes. A key goal is to determine if NLR predicts outcome or survival in Luminal A or TNBC. A further key goal is to determine if there is any predictive value of combining the NLR with Oncotype scores (in relevant cases).