New Discovery Provides Hope for Improved MS Therapies

Scientists from Trinity have made an important discovery that could lead to more effective treatments for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Their work highlights the significant potential of drugs targeting a specific immune molecule (IL-17) implicated in MS.

The scientists, led by Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology, and Aoife McGinley, Postdoctoral Fellow, in Trinity’s School of Biochemistry and Immunology have published their results today in the prestigious Cell press journal, Immunity.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating disease that affects around 2.3 million people globally and over 9,000 people in Ireland. It is associated with infiltration of immune cells into the brain and spinal cord that cause damage to nerves, leading to neurological disabilities.

However, the cause and precise immunological basis to this autoimmune disease is still unclear.

Studies in a mouse model of MS, called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), have shown that immune ‘T cells’, which secrete an immune molecule called ‘IL-17’, cause damage to the myelin sheath that surrounds nerves in the central nervous system (CNS).

Early clinical trials with antibody-based drugs that block IL-17 are showing promise in the treatment of relapsing-remitting (RR) MS and have already been licensed for the treatment of psoriasis, another common autoimmune disease.

The just-published study from Professor Mills’ research group outlines an entirely new role for IL-17 in EAE and, potentially, in MS.

Professor Mills said:

“Our team found that IL-17 plays a critical ‘priming’ role in kick-starting the disease-causing immune response that mediates the damage in EAE and MS.

The new research shows that, instead of playing a direct part in CNS pathology, a key role of IL-17 is to mobilise and activate an army of disease-causing immune cells in the lymph nodes that then migrate to the CNS to cause the nerve damage.”

Dr Aoife McGinley added:

“Crucially, our findings suggest that drugs that block IL-17 may not need to get across the blood-brain-barrier to be effective in treating MS.

So, as well as shedding new light on the importance of IL-17 as a drugs target in RR MS, our research highlights the huge potential of drugs that block IL-17 in the treatment of other autoimmune diseases, such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.”

Understanding How a Protein Wreaks Havoc in the Brain in Parkinson’s Disease

What causes neurons to die in Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a long-term (chronic) neurological condition that affects around 12,000 people in Ireland and between 7 and 10 million people worldwide.

The disease affects the way the brain co-ordinates body movements like walking and talking, but cognitive abilities are also affected.

There is currently no cure for the disease, but researchers at Trinity have recently published findings of a study which may lead to better treatments for this debilitating illness. The paper has been published in the international Cell Press journal Structure.

Neurons in the part of the brain called ‘substantia nigra’ (dark matter) produce and release a hormone called dopamine. This hormone acts as a messenger between these cells in the substantia nigra and other parts of the brain which control body movements.

“If these specialised neurons become damaged or die, the amount of dopamine in the brain is reduced. This means that the parts of the brain that control movement cease to function normally. The only treatment for Parkinson’s disease in the last 20 years has been dopamine replacement therapy. This involves providing a substitute to try to increase the levels of the hormone in the brain. However, the treatment is not completely effective and can wear off over time, and it also has side effects,”

said Amir Khan, Associate professor, School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity.

“The main reason why we lack new treatments is that we don’t understand the fundamental mechanism of how neurons become sick and die. No one knows why these particular neurons in the substantia nigra are affected.”

“In the last few years, the field has completely changed. We have new insight into a gene called LRRK2, which is the most common cause of inherited Parkinson’s disease. Although only 10% of Parkinson’s cases are inherited, the enzyme that is produced by the LRRK2 gene seems to be overactive in both inherited and ‘sporadic’ cases.” 

“In other words, afflicted individuals may not have an LRRK2 mutation, but the enzyme ‘runs amok’ in their neurons anyway. Inhibitors of this enzyme are now in late clinical trials for treatment of Parkinson’s disease.”

The team at Trinity has studied the effects that LRRK2 has on other proteins in neuronal cells. To understand how LRRK2 affects the brain and leads to Parkinson’s disease, the team has simulated the activity of the enzyme in the laboratory.

“The research allowed us to visualize the 3-D structure of a protein complex that is formed when LRRK2 is overactive. From these structural studies of proteins, we can understand how LRRK2 is able to impose its profound effects on neurons. We are the first group to report the effects of LRRK2 in 3-D detail using a method called X-ray crystallography,“ Professor Khan continued.

An overactive LRRK2 runs loose in neurons and wreaks havoc on motor and cognitive abilities. In a way, we are chasing the footprints that LRRK2 leaves in the brain to understand what it does, and find ways to stop it.”

“We are hopeful that these studies may eventually lead to new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, for which there is currently no cure.”


Using AI to Improve Communication Between the Doctor and Patient

artificial intelligence

Productive communication with the physician is essential for the patient to see improvements in their condition, however, most doctors have never had their communication skills formally assessed. When the doctor does not describe conditions and treatments to their patient in a comprehensible manner, it can lead to improper medication use, worsening of the condition, and low patient satisfaction. Exploring potential digital solutions to this gap in communication, researchers from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Trinity College Dublin, and the University of Edinburgh discussed the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in enhancing patient-provider interactions in a BMJ article.

“Many clinicians’ communications skills aren’t formally assessed–either during school or in early practice,” said senior author Glyn Elwyn, MD, PhD, MSc, Dartmouth Institute Professor. “At the same time, there is a lot of evidence that clinicians often struggle when communicating with their patients. It’s hard to improve on something when you’re not being given any feedback and don’t know how you’re doing.”

Elwyn and colleagues claim that AI is an innovative solution that could completely change the communication process in healthcare. Providing practitioners with personalized, detailed assessments of their communication skills, AI may provide the first widely used tool for evaluating physician communication. In their article, Elwyn and his associates identify three main areas where AI and recordings of patient-physician interactions could be used to improve communication between the two parties.

Analysis of Conversations

Automatic analysis of words and phrasing in dialogues between a doctor and their patient could reveal whether the two understood each other. This could also provide feedback as to whether the provider is properly recording patient histories, recommending treatments based on evidence, and using words that the patient can understand. AI also has the potential to analyze conversations in real-time and suggest diagnoses that they may not have been considering and offer a broad range of treatment suggestions.

Letting the Patient Speak Their Mind

AI could also analyze the proportion of time that the physician lets the patient speak compared to how much time they spend talking. Many patients complain that their providers do not take pauses and allow them to voice their own questions and concerns, therefore it could be very beneficial to address this issue with AI. When the patient is given space to talk, higher adherence to medications and better memory of information is typically correlated. This analysis of dialogue could eventually provide insight that helps prevent premature decisions such as the ordering of invasive procedures. This AI could, for instance, guide further questioning that leads to a diagnosis of heartburn instead of cardiac pain.

Tone and Style in Voice

Algorithms have already been used to analyze the commercial pilot’s vocal pitch and energy, and this technology could have similar benefits in the healthcare industry. Analyzing these vocal features could help detect high-risk situations in which the doctor is under stress that inhibits their communication skills. In addition, this vocal analysis could also provide insight into the patient’s mental and physical health. Conditions like depression and heart failure can be characterized by distinct vocal changes that an AI-powered speech recognition device could detect.

Challenges Accompanied by AI Use in Healthcare

Despite these benefits, there are many challenges to the application of AI in healthcare. For example, issues such as patient privacy can be brought into question when there are devices in the room recording and analyzing conversations. In addition, even the most advanced AI systems are currently not capable of fulling decoding the complicated dialogue that occurs in the medical setting.

“Five years ago, the idea of using AI to analyze medical communication wouldn’t have been on anyone’s radar,” said Elwyn. “As the technology advances, it will be interesting to see whether healthcare systems can employ it effectively and whether providers will be open to using it as a tool for improving their communication skills.”

Written by: Jack Carfagno

New Trinity Chancellor to Be in Place by Christmas

Trinity will have elected a new Chancellor by the end of 2020, to replace Mary Robinson, whose term finished in June.

In an email to The University Times, Aoife Crawford, the Administrative Officer in Trinity’s Secretary’s Office, said that “the process to appoint a new Chancellor (and two new Pro-Chancellors) will be conducted in Michaelmas term and a new Chancellor is expected to be in place before Christmas”.

Mary Robinson retired as Trinity’s Chancellor in June.

An election will be held during the coming term if more than one candidate emerges.

As Chancellor, Robinson was the head of the University of Dublin. She presided over ceremonial occasions in the College such as commencement ceremonies, and officiated at honorary degree ceremonies.

The Chancellor’s other responsibilities include interpreting the College Statutes and hearing appeals against decisions of the College Board.

Robinson, a former President of Ireland, was elected to the position in 1998.The first female Chancellor since the founding of the College in 1592, she was elected a Scholar of Trinity in 1965 and graduated with a first-class honours degree in law in 1967. She served as a Senator for the University of Dublin from 1969 to 1989.

Robinson, an outspoken campaigner for action against climate change, will now take up a new role in College as an adjunct professor of climate justice in the School of Natural Sciences.

Robinson has said that the climate crisis is “a man-made problem with a feminist solution”. The Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice facilitates action to achieve sustainable development, particularly for those in poor, marginalised areas that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Speaking at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in February, she encouraged people to “get angry” at the government’s failure to act to resolve the crisis.

In February, Robinson launched Trinity’s Green Week. Speaking at the launch, she said: “The great thing about what’s happening in this university is students are being very active. I loved the campaign on divestment. I supported it.”

In May, a portrait of Robinson was commissioned for the Dining Hall.

Robinson also became embroiled in controversy this year after commenting on the case of Dubai Princess Sheikha Latifa.

She was criticised by human rights advocates all over the world for calling the princess, the daughter of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, a “troubled young woman”.

Robinson said she had been invited to Dubai by Princess Haya, one of Sheikh Mohammed’s six wives, to help with what Haya called a “private family matter”.

Several weeks later, however, Haya made headlines after reportedly fleeing Dubai and seeking asylum in Europe.

Written by: Emer Moreau of University Times Ireland

Trinity Professor Receives Pancreatic Cancer Research Award

Professor Maeve Lowery, Trinity’s recently appointed Professor of Translational Cancer Medicine, is the recipient of a recent award from the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (UK) which will fund her research over the coming three years into the treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in Ireland and worldwide. It is expected to be the 2nd most common cause of cancer death in the US within the next two years, reflecting a rising incidence of the disease and lack of effective treatment options. In contrast to other cancers, new cancer drugs including targeted therapies and immunotherapies have not improved survival rates for patients with pancreatic cancer.

Professor Maeve Lowery

Professor Lowery will analyse pancreatic tumours to identify mutations in both the coding and non-coding ‘regulatory’ regions of genes involved in repairing DNA within the cell, and study how these mutations effect how a pancreatic cancer cell grows and how it responds to treatment with drugs in the laboratory.

She hopes that the results of these studies will be used to design a clinical trial for patients with pancreatic cancer; where patients are selected for targeted treatment based on genetic testing that indicates they have similar mutations in their DNA damage repair genes.

“ This research will help us to understand how genetic changes within a pancreatic tumour can predict which drugs will be most effective for that patient.”

The award from the PCRF is important as it will facilitate researchers from complimentary backgrounds working together to improve outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer. As an oncologist who treats patients with pancreatic cancer and works both on clinical trials and in the laboratory, Professor Lowery will work with her colleagues Professor Adrian Bracken of the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity and Dr Alex Eustace, translational oncology scientist at the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology at Dublin City University.

“ The Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund is a charity dedicated exclusively to supporting research to improve the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer. They have supported a tremendous amount of important research into pancreatic cancer through fundraising and donations, and continue to advocate strongly for pancreatic cancer patients to receive a fair allocation of research funding.  I am delighted to work with PCRF to continue to find ways to improve outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer.”


Interview with Professor Lowery: you can read a recent interview with Professor Lowery in the the Provost’s Annual Review here (Page 86):


Trinity 37th in Times Higher Education Teaching Rankings


Trinity is 37th in the Times Higher Education European teaching rankings for 2019, climbing significantly from last year.

The 2018 pilot rankings saw College fall into the 51st–75th category.

In a press statement, Trinity Senior Lecturer Kevin Mitchell said the ranking is “a real testament to the quality of teaching, and learning environment we provide for our students in reaching their full potential”.

He continued: “We want our students to develop continuously and support them in meeting the challenges of the future. This ranking would not be possible without the commitment of our staff in helping our students achieve this.”

The rankings are compiled using a balanced scorecard approach, with 13 performance across 4 different categories. The categories are engagement, which examines if the institution effectively engages with its students; resources, which concerns the capacity of the institution to effectively deliver teaching; outcomes, which examines if institution generates appropriate outputs for students; and environment, which examines if the teaching and learning environment is inclusive.

University College Cork was the second-highest Irish university in the rankings, at 48th. The University of Limerick fell in the 51st-75th category, while NUI Galway placed in the 126th-150th category.

Neither University College Dublin (UCD) nor Dublin City University placed in the rankings.

This year saw Trinity continue a downward trend in the QS World University Rankings, falling from 104th to 108th. UCD rose eight places to 185th, maintaining its place as the second-highest Irish university in the world rankings.

Trinity also fell in the 2018 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, from 117th to 120th.

In 2016, Trinity developed a College-wide strategy to improve its position in world university rankings.

In his final “state of the College” address this year, Provost Patrick Prendergast dismissed the rankings as “reductive”.

Prendergast said that they disregarded “the societal engagement, the critical questing creativity, that we take for granted”. Trinity was ranked the 67th best university in the world when Prendergast took up his position.


By: Emer Moreau of University Times

Trinity Professor of Surgery elected Honorary Fellow of the American Surgical Association

Professor of Surgery at Trinity College, Professor Kevin Conlon has been elected to Honorary Fellowship of the American Surgical Association. This is the highest recognition that the American Surgical Association can bestow upon a surgical colleague from a foreign country. At present, there are ninety-five Honorary Fellows from throughout the world.

Professor Conlon is Professor of Surgery at Trinity College Dublin based in Tallaght Hospital. He is a surgical oncologist with an interest in upper gastrointestinal cancer, particularly gastric and pancreatic malignancies. He is internationally recognised and widely published in the field of surgical oncology and is a member of many cooperative groups.

He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Digestive Surgery and has served on the editorial board of multiple international journals. He is a member of many cooperative groups. He is currently President of the European-African-Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary-Association  (E-AHPBA) and Secretary General of the International Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary-Association (IHPBA). He is a member of the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and of the Council of European Digestive Surgery. He is also a member of the European Surgical Association and the International Surgical Group.  He is a Past-President (2011) of the Pancreatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland (PSGBI). Prior to joining Trinity, he was Associate Chairman of the Department of Surgery and Director of the Minimally Invasive Therapeutics Programme at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York. At Memorial Hospital, he was part of the executive team responsible for the development of their cancer disease management system and the initiation of a multidisciplinary regional care model for the patient with cancer. The American Surgical Association was founded in 1880 and is the country’s oldest and most prestigious surgical organisation.

As a premier academic surgical society, its mission it to strive for excellence and leadership in science, education, and patient care while promoting diversity, integrity, and innovation.

Prior to joining Trinity, he was Associate Chairman of the Department of Surgery and Director of the Minimally Invasive Therapeutics Programme at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York. At Memorial Hospital, he was part of the executive team responsible for the development of their cancer disease management system and the initiation of a multidisciplinary regional care model for the patient with cancer.

The American Surgical Association was founded in 1880 and is the country’s oldest and most prestigious surgical organisation.

As a premier academic surgical society, its mission it to strive for excellence and leadership in science, education, and patient care while promoting diversity, integrity, and innovation.

Trinity College Dublin Lab Solves Hepatitis C Detection Problem

By David Kelly

Featured Image Credit: Nexu Science Communication 

Scientists from Trinity College Dublin have discovered how Hepatitis C virus (HCV) “ghosts” our immune system and remains undiagnosed in many people.

The highly infectious and sometimes deadly Hepatitis C is transmitted via infected blood or blood products. Replicating well in the liver, it is the leading cause of liver disease worldwide. Despite killing 399,000 people annually, Hepatitis C is rarely accompanied by any obvious clinical symptoms.

Diagnoses often occur only six to twelve months after the infection. This triggers a low-level inflammatory response. These responses eventually cause fibrotic scarring of the liver. This non-functioning liver tissue results in a build up of toxins, often referred to as jaundice.


Jaundice, and other side-effects of liver fibrosis, are usually the first noticeable symptoms of Hepatitis C virus infections. However, by then there is often significant damage to the liver. While HCV is treatable with new medicines, early detection could prevent unnecessary damage.

The Normal Immune Response

A group of scientists, led by Nigel Stevenson, Assistant Professor in Immunology at Trinity, set out to understand how the virus avoids being discovered for months after infection.

Normally, our cells intercommunicate using molecules called cytokines. These molecules work by activating specific cascades of other molecules within our cells called signalling pathways. These signalling pathways trigger hundreds of molecules within our cells to increase inflammation and anti-viral activity.

This immune response kills and clears viral infections from our cells and bodies. However, uncontrolled inflammation is dangerous. Therefore, ‘Suppressor of Cytokine Signalling’ (SOCS) regulators are deployed to control and eventually shut down signalling pathways.

The Hepatitis C Ghost

The Trinity scientists discovered that the HCV abuses our immune response by triggering our SOCS regulators.

“We’ve discovered that HCV hijacks this regulatory process by causing the expression of SOCS in our cells. By increasing the expression of SOCS, HCV basically dulls the normal immune response to viral infection. Without a strong signal our body’s cells cannot then mount an effective inflammatory and anti-viral response that clears infection” explained Dr Stevenson.

“This ability shields HCV from our body’s normal, effective anti-viral immune response and creates a perfect environment in which to survive, replicate and infect other cells. Many diseases are mediated by increasing the inflammatory response to an inappropriately high level, but in this case, it is the lack of adequate inflammation that enables HCV to go undiagnosed, leaving it free to rapidly replicate and infect other cells.”

Dr Stevenson explained to HeadStuff that inhibiting the HCV-p7 protein reduces the induction of the SOCS regulator. Therefore, targeting this protein may be an efficient mechanism to restore the effective immune responses against HCV, especially in patients that do not respond to existing therapy.

Hepatitis C
The HCV p7 protein
Credit: Nexu Science Communication

“If chemists developed effective therapeutics that inhibit HCV-p7, these medicines might be useful in restoring effective immune responses against HCV” added Dr Stevenson.

The Trinity Immunologists

Dr Stevenson’s research aims to decipher the mechanisms by which pathogens target and evade immune responses. They have a specific interest in inflammatory and anti-viral pathways, such as the tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF) and interferon (IFN)-alpha pathways, respectively.

Dysregulation of TNF production has been implicated in a variety of human diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, major depression, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

His research group investigates specific diseases such as HCV, HIV and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). RSV blocks immunity and is a major global problem affecting children and the elderly. There are no effective vaccines or therapeutics for this virus.

Tackling HIV’s Immunity

Last year, Dr Stevenson’s lab discovered a mechanism by which HIV evades the immune system, and which shows precisely how the virus avoids elimination. The new research shows that HIV targets and disables the Interferon signalling pathway, thus avoiding the immune response that is designed to cure viral infection.

Hepatitis C
Credit: Nexu Science Communication

“We discovered that HIV promotes the destruction of the anti-viral Interferon signalling pathway. Essentially, HIV uses the machinery in our own cells to do this, and the virus is thus able to reduce the production of many important anti-viral molecules. Without these anti-viral molecules, our immune system can’t clear viral infections” explained Dr Stevenson.

“Our new revelation sheds new light on how HIV avoids elimination, which, in turn, may explain why HIV is still not a curable disease. We feel this discovery could mark a paradigm shift in our understanding of how this virus evades our immune response. It should open the door to a new era of HIV research aiming to cure and eradicate this deadly virus.”

New Research from TCD and RCSI Reveals How the Body Clock Controls Inflammation

New research reveals how the body clock controls inflammation
New research reveals how the body clock controls inflammation. Pictured left to right: Dr Richard Carroll, Dr Annie Curtis, Mariana Cervantes and George Timmons at RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland). Credit: Patrick Bolger

Researchers at RCSI and Trinity College Dublin have revealed insights into how the body clock controls the inflammatory response, which may open up new therapeutic options to treat excess inflammation in conditions such as asthma, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. By understanding how the body clock controls the inflammatory response, we may be able to target these conditions at certain times of the day to have the most benefit. These findings may also shed light on why individuals who experience body clock disruption such as shift workers are more susceptible to these inflammatory conditions.

The body , the timing mechanism in each cell in the body, allows the body to anticipate and respond to the 24-hour external environment. Inflammation is normally a protective process that enables the body to clear infection or damage, however if left unchecked can lead to disease. The new study, led by researchers at Dr. Annie Curtis’s Lab at RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) in partnership with Prof. Luke O’Neill’s Lab at Trinity College Dublin, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a leading international multidisciplinary scientific journal.

Dr. Annie Curtis, Research Lecturer in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics at RCSI and senior author, explained that: “Macrophages are key immune cells in our bodies which produce this  when we are injured or ill. What has become clear in recent years is that these cells react differently depending on the time of day that they face an infection or damage, or when we disrupt the body clock within these cells”.

Dr. Jamie Early, first author on the study, said: “We have made a number of discoveries into the impact of the body clock in macrophages on inflammatory diseases such as asthma and multiple sclerosis. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms by which the  clock precisely controls the inflammatory  were still unclear. Our study shows that the central clock protein, BMAL1 regulates levels of the antioxidant response protein NRF2 to control a key inflammatory molecule called IL-1β from macrophages.”

“The findings although at a preliminary stage, offers new insights into the behaviour of  such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease which are known to be altered by the “, added Dr. Early.

Funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the research was undertaken in collaboration between RCSI, Trinity College Dublin and the Broad Institute in Boston, USA.

The paper, The Circadian Clock Protein BMAL1 Regulates IL-1β in Macrophages via NRF2, will be published on Monday, August 20.

Trinity to Become a Smoke-Free Campus

By: Eleanor O’Mahony from The University Times

The College Board today approved the introduction of a smoke-free campus, after a successful two-year pilot, years of campaigning and a Trinity College Dublin Students Union (TCDSU) vote this year that showed students were overwhelmingly in favour of the move.

There are now just three smoking zones on campus: around the perimeter of College Park, Kinsella podium outside the 24-hour library and an area near the back of the Buttery. Trinity worked with the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) and TCDSU to finalise the locations of the smoke-free zones.

In a memorandum submitted to Board, obtained by The University Times, Dr David McGrath, the Director of the College Health Service, said that the proposal for a smoke-free campus “would result in a clean campus and fresh air for all”.

Until now, areas outside the Health Centre, the Sports Centre and the Arts Block were the only designated on-campus smoke-free zones. E-cigarettes can be used anywhere on campus.

The College Park smoking zone will allow students to smoke outside the Pav, while the smoking zone outside Kinsella Hall will cater for those working and studying in the Arts Block and the library. The area behind the Buttery was designated to allow catering staff to smoke.

It will cost the College almost €36,000 to implement the smoke-free campus over the next year, with signage making up around €10,000 of that cost. Healthy Trinity will also employ students as ambassadors, to monitor on-campus smoking and to encourage compliance with the rules.

Trinity will also work to improve smoking zones, providing an alternative smoking shelter outside the 24-hour library.

The College’s smoke-free policy will be reviewed one year after implementation.

In September, TCDSU conducted a plebiscite to gauge student opinion on a smoke-free campus, with 71 per cent of voters supporting the proposal. The vote was held in conjunction with class representative elections and was non-binding.

Healthy Trinity has run a number of campaigns to encourage students to give up smoking and engage in healthy habits. The body has also aimed to highlight the environmental damage of smoking, counting discarded cigarette butts on campus

In a report compiled in November 2017 after the smoke-free zones were piloted, Trinity cited an average 81 per cent decrease in smoking in the areas now categorised as smoke-free zones.

The report measured the rates of smoking between July 2016 and April 2017 and found that Fellows Square – the space in front of the Arts Block – was the most popular place for smokers. After over 313 checks, 1,030 people were found to be smoking there. This compares to 84 smokers in the vicinity of the Sports Centre and Lloyd Building after the same number of checks.

The ban on smoking in Fellows Square, the report states, saw a 74 per cent reduction, while the ban had a 92 per cent reduction outside the Sports Centre.

Across all the areas, people were also more likely to refuse to leave as the year continued. There was no “complete compliance” – leaving a zone when asked by a smoke-free ambassador – at any point during the survey.

The College’s surveys found that just seven per cent of Trinity students smoke daily, while 12 per cent said they smoke occasionally.

The Tobacco Free Trinity campaign began in 2013. Between 2013 and 2014, the group sought opinions from undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as staff. In an online survey, around 21 per cent of staff, 26 per cent of postgraduates and 41 per cent of undergraduates opposed the initiative. TCDSU then ran a referendum in 2014 to adopt a stance on the issue. Some 53 per cent opposed the smoke-free initiative.

Since then, it has been difficult to build consensus in TCDSU on the issue. The union changed its mandate in 2015 to support the introduction of smoke-free zones in “identified problem areas on campus”, after Healthy Trinity came up with a compromise proposal to ban smoking outside the Health Centre and Sports Centre.

Last year, students voted to remove the union’s mandate at a meeting of TCDSU’s council, meaning that the union currently has no official stance on the initiative. However, the vote in September helped the union gauge opinion on smoke-free Trinity.

After rejecting initial proposals for a smoke-free campus in 2014, the GSU has no mandate on the issue. Debates on smoke-free zones at the union’s meetings of council last year were contentious. The GSU has a memorandum of understanding with TCDSU whereby the GSU will take on the stance of TCDSU when it is not mandated on the issue.

Trinity is not the first university to adopt policies to reduce the level of smoking on its campus. In 2016, National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) introduced two smoke-free zones on campus.