Actor Cillian Murphy Attends Youth Empathy Day at NUI Galway

Galway Bay fm newsroom – Actor Cillian Murphy has been attending Youth Empathy Day at NUI Galway, hosted by the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre.

The youth-led day brought together 200 Transition Year students from six secondary schools in Galway, Dublin and Tipperary, all of whom are taking part in a new pilot education programme called Activating Social Empathy.

It supports adolescents to learn empathy in schools.

Actor and Patron of the Centre, Cillian Murphy spoke to the students about the importance of empathy in his work as an actor.

A series of workshops on literature, drama, music, yoga, mindfulness and social media will explore how these areas can be used to teach and promote empathy.

Two of the Centre’s Youth Researchers will host a peer-led session on their own experience of developing empathy.

The day will close with a group brainstorm on developing an Empathy Charter that can be carried into schools, setting out how empathy can be fostered within school communities.

NUI Galway Medical Students Celebrate Thirteen Years of Teddy Bear Hospital

The 13th annual Teddy Bear Hospital at NUI Galway will take place Thursday and Friday, 18 and 19 January. The event will see over 1,300 sick teddy bears admitted to the hospital, accompanied by their minders, 1,300 primary school children.

The event is organised by the Sláinte Society, the NUI Galway branch of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations, and up to 200 medical and science students will diagnose and treat the teddy bears. In the process, they hope to help children, ranging in age from 3-8 years, feel more comfortable around doctors and hospitals.

Over the years, children have come along with teddy bears suffering from an imaginative range of sore ears, sick tummies and all kinds of other weird and wonderful ailments.

Sally Cahill, a third year medical student at NUI Galway and co-auditor of Sláinte Society, said: “This year we are celebrating the 13th annual Teddy Bear Hospital. Over the past couple of years, demand from schools to attend the event has increased and as a result the event has become ever bigger in an attempt to cure all of the sick teddies of Galway. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our first ‘patients’ on Thursday, 18 January and hope to create a relaxed and enjoyable ‘hospital’ environment for the children.”

This year, 25 local primary schools are participating in the event, equating to over 1,300 children. On arrival at the Teddy Bear Hospital on campus, the children will go to the ‘waiting room’, which contains jugglers and face painters. Then the children and their teddy bears are seen by a team of Teddy Doctors and Teddy Nurses, who will examine them. The students will have specially designed X-ray and MRI machines on hand, should the teddy bears need them.

Recuperating teddy bears can avail of medical supplies from the Teddy Bear Pharmacy, stocked with healthy fruit from Burkes Fruit and Veg, along with medical supplies sponsored by Matt O’Flaherty Chemist.

After all this excitement the children can enjoy a bouncy castle and entertainment from the juggling society in the college. Further sponsorship for the event came from Bank of Ireland, Dunnes Stores, NUI Galway Socs Box and Medical Protection Society.

Ríona Hughes, NUI Galway’s Societies Officer, said: “The Teddy Bear hospital is a magical opportunity for the society to invite the children and their teddies to campus and provide a valuable learning experience for all. It is one of the NUI Galway societies’ most colourful and endearing community outreach programme and we are thrilled with its success.

Congratulations to Sláinte Society who engage such a large number of our students in this event for such a positive purpose and we look forward to a rewarding few days for all involved.”

NUI Galway Study Finds BMI May Be a Factor in How a Child’s Academic Ability is Perceived

A new study by researchers in NUI Galway and Queens University Belfast demonstrates that obesity should not be understood solely as a health issue but rather one that may have much broader economic implications. The findings provide evidence that the body mass index (BMI) of a child’s mother may influence teachers’ perceptions of the academic ability of that child.

The study published in the journal Economics and Human Biology showed that children whose mother was obese were more likely to be rated by their teacher as below average in reading and in maths compared to those whose mother was leaner, after what the child actually obtained in terms of their actual test score in both maths and reading had been taken into account.

Although not the focus of this study, it is notable that other variables such as the child’s gender, other aspects of the mother (education, income) and in extended models teacher characteristics (gender and experience) were significant which could also potentially be worrisome.

Michelle Queally, post-doctoral research fellow at the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway and co-author of the study, said: “The study found a significant relationship between a mother’s BMI and the probability of the child’s ability being assessed as below average by their teacher. This is potentially worrisome and clearly indicates the need for further research. Other findings of the study show that boys, for example, are more likely to be rated as below average in reading and girls are more likely to be rated as below average by teachers in maths. The size of the marginal effect for girls is 0.02, while that for a mother’s BMI is 0.003. In other words a 10 point increase in BMI, moving someone from normal to obese, for example, would be roughly equivalent in terms of its impact on the probability of being assessed as below average as would the child being female.”

Using data collected as part of the first wave of the Growing up in Ireland Survey (a longitudinal cohort study of a nationally representative sample of over 8500 children from 900 schools in Ireland) the researchers from NUI Galway and Queens University Belfast investigated whether teacher’s assessments of a child’s academic ability is associated with the BMI of the child and/or its mother.

Findings from the study are consistent with other studies that have shown disadvantage experienced by the obese and in particular obese women in various domains of life. The study notes that the potential for a mother’s weight status to influence teachers’ assessments of their children’s perceived ability could have long term ramifications for educational outcomes given the role of teachers in examination marking.

While compelling, the analysis cannot be taken as definitive proof that teachers stereotype children based on an assessment of their mother’s obesity. It is probable, for example, that test scores form only a small part of the information used by teacher’s in making assessments of ability. Nevertheless the study highlights an area that warrants further investigation.

To read the full study in Economics and Human Biology visit:

NUI Galway Research on Converting Biomass to High Value Molecules For Drug Discovery

International journal features NUI Galway research on producing higher value chemicals that could be used in drug discovery projects for Type-2 Diabetes and Gaucher Disease

Researchers from the School of Chemistry at NUI Galway have produced research that has been published this week in the international journal Synthesis, and has been featured on the journal’s front cover. The research involved the development of a strategy to convert biomass to high value molecules for investigation in new drug discovery projects such as Type-2 Diabetes, Gaucher’s disease and Fabry disease.

Synthesis is devoted to the advancement of the science of synthetic chemistry and papers featured in the journal are noted as being ‘original papers of exceptional high quality and significance to the scientific community’.

Professor Paul Murphy, Head of the School of Chemistry at NUI Galway, and a PhD researcher from the School, Rekha Chadda from Co. Sligo, worked together to develop a new strategy to convert mannose, a naturally occurring sugar manufactured from wood-based or other biomass, into higher value chemicals, called glycomimetics, that can be useful in drug discovery. Professor Patrick McArdle from the School of Chemistry, performed X-ray crystal structure analysis, which helped them confirm the molecular structure of substances produced in the research.

Some glycomimetics are in clinical use and are used for the treatment of patients with Type-2 Diabetes, Gaucher’s disease (a genetic disorder) and Fabry disease (an inherited disorder that results from the build-up of a particular type of fat). A glycomimetic (UV4) is currently in clinical trials with a view to the therapy of infection caused by the Dengue virus and there is potential in treatment of other infections.

Professor Paul Murphy at NUI Galway, said: “The research demonstrates the value of Synthetic Chemistry. We used a renewable molecule, the sugar mannose, from biomass as a basis for generating higher value molecules that have potential in drug discovery projects. In future we would like to expand the application of the strategy to make other important molecules for drug discovery projects as well as see if the approach can have application in synthesis of pharmaceuticals.”

The team used a new strategy, not investigated previously, to produce the glycomimetics. These new agents are now available for evaluation of their potential in drug discovery and this will be shortly investigated. Synthesis is a practice used by chemists to discover and manufacture drugs in everyday clinical use. It is also used to produce materials, such as plastics, which find everyday applications in people’s lives. In this research, Rekha Chadda took a substance prepared from mannose and subjected the substance to two old chemical reactions combined in a novel way. The reactions are known as allylic azide rearrangement and Huisgen cycloaddition, and were originally developed more than 50 years ago by US and German scientists.

This research study was funded by NUI Galway (PhD scholarship to Rekha Chadda), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the European Regional Development Fund.

View the paper on:

Three NUI Galway investigators identified as the next generation of research talent

(from left to right): Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson, NUI Galway’s Dr Laura Russo and Dr Aideen Ryan, Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD.
(from left to right): Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson, NUI Galway’s Dr Laura Russo and Dr Aideen Ryan, Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD.

Three NUI Galway researchers have been awarded significant funding in an announcement made by Science Foundation Ireland this week.  Working in the fields of colon cancer, intervertebral disc repair and tissue engineering, the individuals were selected as “the next leaders of research in Ireland, shaping the research community both here in Ireland and internationally”.

Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD, announced a total of €22.3 million in research funding for 40 major research projects in Ireland.  The funding is distributed through Science Foundation Ireland’s Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) and Career Development Award (CDA) Programmes.

Dr Aideen Ryan, a Senior Research Fellow in Immunology at NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI), was awarded a SIRG of €518,821 for her work on colon cancer. Her project, RESTRAIN, involves investigating tumour stromal interactions in metastatic colon cancer for the identification of novel immuno-therapeutic targets.

Dr Laura Russo, a member of the CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, was awarded a SIRG of €518,749 for her research on tissue engineering for degenerative intervertebral disc disease. Her project will look at glyco-functionalised hydrogel to stimulate the repair of the damaged disc.

Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis, Director of the Regenerative, Modular and Developmental Engineering Laboratory (REMODEL) and Principal Investigator of the CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, was awarded a CDA of €493,759 for his work on tissue engineering. His project, Tissue Engineered Nanoassemblies of Advanced Biomimicry of Living Equivalents (TENABLE), will develop living tissue substitutes using iPSCs based on the principles of in vitro organogenesis.

NUI Galway’s Vice-President for Research, Professor Lokesh Joshi, welcomed the awards: “These awards recognise the excellent young research talent at NUI Galway and how our researchers are advancing scientific frontiers which will ultimately benefit patients. We are focused on developing the next generation of researchers which is critical to the long-term sustainability of delivering research impact.”

Announcing the awards, Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD said; This investment in the SFI SIRG and CDA Programmes allows researchers to advance their research investigations and continue developing their careers. These researchers will be the next leaders of research in Ireland, shaping the research community both here in Ireland and internationally. The nine industrial collaborations linked with these awards provides industry with access to the emerging research expertise found throughout Ireland. Collaborations at these early career stages will help establish relationships which will advance Ireland’s economy, society and reputation for research excellence now and in the future.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland welcomed the announcement saying: “Science Foundation Ireland places a heavy emphasis on supporting researchers at every stage of their careers. The SIRG and CDA awards help early and mid-career researchers develop essential skills and track records necessary to become the next generation of research leaders in Ireland.  I have high expectations for these projects and look forward to these teams contributing to the advancement of Ireland’s international reputation in areas such as energy, materials, technology, and health.”

NUIG-based CÚRAM teams with Neograft to develop new method to manufacture of coronary bypass device

Dr Eoin O’Cearbhaill, CÚRAM Investigator based at the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at University College Dublin, whose Medical Devices Design Group will work with the company
Dr Eoin O’Cearbhaill, CÚRAM Investigator based at the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at University College Dublin, whose Medical Devices Design Group will work with the company

Neograft, a Boston based medical technology company has teamed up with CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, to develop a novel manufacturing method for coronary bypass devices. Based at NUI Galway, CÚRAM has over 250 researchers engaged in current projects, both in collaboration with industry and on blue-sky research.

Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is a type of surgery that improves blood flow to the heart and is used to treat people who have severe coronary heart disease (CHD). This type of surgery, which typically uses veins to create bypass grafts for the heart, is currently the best option for most patients with CHD. Outcomes can however be compromised by the mechanical and biological limitations of veins typically used to create the bypass grafts.

Dr Eoin O’Cearbhaill, CÚRAM Investigator based at the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at University College Dublin, whose Medical Devices Design Group will work with the company, explains that despite their widespread use, vein grafts continue to fail at high rates. “Many of these grafts can become obstructed in the first year and the failure rate can be up to 50% within five to ten years,” he says.

Neograft Technologies, Inc. has developed a product called Angioshield™, which offers a new option for treatment of coronary artery disease and promises to improve vein performance and longevity in CABG outcomes.

“Our Angioshield technology creates a support layer around the vein using a proprietary polymer network to improve both the strength and uniformity of the vein graft,” explains Jon McGrath, from Neograft’s CEO. “The device supports the vein without deforming its natural shape and allows nutrients and new cells to migrate into and through the support layer. Over time, new, stronger tissue develops around and within the scaffold, while the polymer that it’s made from weakens, allowing the new tissue to be exposed to its normal environment, which favours the development of stronger, more functional tissues.”

Dr O’Cearbhaill’s research team will work with Neograft Technologies, Inc. and seek to use advanced manufacturing methods to develop a next-generation product.

CÚRAM’s goal is to develop affordable solutions for patients suffering from chronic illnesses like CHD,” says NUI Galway’s Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM. “This project is another example of how we are partnering with industry to do this, using world class research expertise to allow our industry partners to expand and develop their product ranges to provide the ultimate benefit to the patient” he says.

CÚRAM brings together strands of biomedical science which have come of age over the last decade including glycoscience, biomaterials science, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, drug delivery and medical device design.

CÚRAM has six academic partners including UCD, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, University College Cork, The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland and NUI Galway.

NUI Galway – New insights into potent cancer tumour suppressor gene

Professor Noel Lowndes is head of the Centre for Chromosome Biology at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

New insight into the function of a gene important in the suppression of cancer is published today. Researchers at the National University of Ireland Galway have shown that the TP53 gene has even greater anti-cancer activity than previously thought.

Professor Noel Lowndes is head of the Centre for Chromosome Biology at the National University of Ireland Galway and a Science Foundation Ireland Principal Investigator. Lead-author on the paper and an expert in DNA damage, he explains: “TP53 is one of the most potent genes in the human genome at preventing cancer and hence is termed a tumour suppressor gene. The importance of TP53 as a tumour suppressor is best illustrated by its mutation in at least half of all human cancers.”

Previously, TP53 has been known to function in processes that prevent cancer cells from multiplying in the body by either triggering their own destruction, or preventing cell division. Together, these processes are recognised as potent anti-cancer mechanisms.

Professor Lowndes continued: “In our recent work we add a new role to the expanding list of anti-cancer mechanisms controlled by TP53. We show that TP53 directly regulates the repair of broken DNA. Broken DNA is the most dangerous type of DNA damage as it can result in cell death or loss of genetic information in those cells that survive the break.

There are two major competing biochemical pathways for repairing broken DNA. One simply re-joins the two ends of the broken chromosome. The other uses a nearby intact DNA molecule of the same sequence as a template to repair the broken chromosome. Our work demonstrates that TP53 directly influences the regulation of these two pathways. Thus, loss of TP53 during cancer development will drive the evolution of cancer cells towards ever more aggressive cancer types.”

The research team hopes this new insight will impact upon diagnosis of cancer and improved therapeutic interventions.

The research is published in the Royal Society journal Open Biology today in the article ‘A role for the p53 tumour suppressor in regulating the balance between homologous recombination and non-homologous end joining’.

World-Renowned Surgeon to Deliver Sir Peter Freyer Memorial Lecture at NUI Galway

NUI Galway will host Ireland’s largest surgical conference, the 39th Sir Peter Freyer Memorial Lecture and Surgical Symposium, on 5-6 September 2014. Internationally renowned surgeon, Dr John Birkmeyer will deliver the Memorial Lecture entitled ‘Strategies for Improving the Quality of Surgical Care’.

John Birkmeyer, MD is the George D. Zuidema Professor of Surgery and Director of the Centre for Healthcare Outcomes & Policy at the University of Michigan. He is a graduate of Harvard Medical School. His research career has focused on performance measurement, understanding variation in hospital outcomes and cost-efficiency, and strategies for improvement. Formerly a series editor of the Dartmouth Atlas of Healthcare, Dr. Birkmeyer has leading roles in several regional collaborative improvement programs involving over 50 hospitals in Michigan, with support from Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan. He serves on the blue ribbon expert panel on hospital safety ratings for the Leapfrog Group and as Chief Scientific Officer for ArborMetrix, Inc. Dr. Birkmeyer was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006.

Professor of Surgery at NUI Galway, Michael Kerin, who is hosting the event along with his colleague Professor Oliver McAnena, says: “We are delighted to welcome Dr Birkmeyer to our University. Dr Birkmeyer is focused on improving the quality of the health care system which will serve the lives of the people and communities for generations to come.”

On the second day of the Surgical Symposium, Mr James Sheehan, CEO, Galway Clinic, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Co-Founder of Blackrock Clinic, Galway Clinic and the Hermitage Clinic will deliver the State of the Art Lecture entitled ‘Reflections on the Past and a Vision for the Future’ on Saturday, 6th September at 12.45 p.m. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland and he holds an M.Sc in Bioengineering and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Surrey. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers of Ireland and the Irish Academy of Engineering. He specialised in the design of artificial hip and knee prostheses. Since co-founding the Blackrock Clinic in the 1980s, his name has become synonymous with healthcare provision, as well as innovations.

For further information on event, please contact 091 524390 or