Two New Hospitals to be Built in Cork City under National Development Plan

Roads, flood protection, docks regeneration and cultural projects to benefit in Cork

Cork is set to get a new acute hospital as part of a package of projects which range from those providing complex acute care to primary and community services. Photograph: Alan Betson
Cork is set to get a new acute hospital as part of a package of projects which range from those providing complex acute care to primary and community services. Photograph: Alan Betson

Two new hospitals in Cork City and a €1 billion investment in the county’s roads, including backing for the construction of the M20 Cork/Limerickmotorway, have been included in the National Development Plan (NDP).

The city will get a new acute hospital to deal with serious health cases, along with a hospital that will deal only with scheduled operations, while significant investment will be made in primary and community care.

“The high volume of demand for such services in these major urban centres is sufficient to justify the construction of dedicated ambulatory centres. It is envisaged that the facilities will be sited adjacent to general hospitals,” says the plan.

The aim is to increase capacity and separate scheduled and unscheduled care in line with the recommendations of the Sláintecare report and in line with best international practice, says the plan.

Backing the M20 project, the Government said: “The two cities are approximately 100km apart, yet at present the economic interaction and inter-relationships between the two cities is limited, with poor transport connectivity.”

An appraisal process for M20 will also examine the inclusion of the Cork northern ring road, which would complement the Cork-Limerick motorway and link it to the planned Dunkettle Interchange to improve links with the M8 from Dublin and the N25 from Waterford.

In the plan the Government also gives a commitment to realising the €110 million Dunkettle Interchange as well as the €180 million Cork-Ringaskiddyroad, the €130 million Ballyvourney to Macrom bypass on the N22 Cork-Killarney road and the N72/N73 Mallow relief road.

Deeper water

Project Ireland 2040 proposes cutting rail journey times between Cork and Dublin, along with a €200 million investment in local bus services to create bus corridors, offer cashless fares, along with more park-and-ride sites.

The transfer of the Port of Cork’s terminal business and other operations from Tivoli to Ringaskiddy will be backed by a €90 million investment enabling Ringaskiddy to offer deeper water for larger ships.

The NDP will use part of a €2 billion fund to back the regeneration of Cork City’s docklands, upgrading roads, power and sewerage in the former industrial district, along with a new bridge over the river Lee.

Cork is also set to benefit under a plan to invest €180 million across six fishery harbour centres nationally, with Castletownbere in west Cork among those chosen for work beginning in 2022.

Nearly €500 million will be spent on flood-protection works nationally between 2016 to 2021, including the lower Lee flood relief scheme in Cork City and works in SkibbereenClonakilty and Bandon in west Cork.

The plan pledges €55 million for the Cork Lower Harbour main drainage scheme to enhance the water quality in Cork Harbour, along with €30 million between 2018-2021 to continue the clean-up of Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour.

Public museum

Culturally, the refurbishment of the Crawford Art Gallery in the city centre will go ahead. It needs significant rehabilitation to be brought up to the necessary modern health and safety standards expected of a public museum.

The gallery has prepared a preliminary €22 million 2018/2025 development plan for the 18th century building, and the first phase of this is to be finished in three years’ time at an estimated cost of €4 million, according to the report.

The second phase, which is estimated to cost €18 million, will involve the complete refurbishment of the existing building, and the development of further office and gallery space, including the construction of a new block for education, conservation and storage purposes.

On education, University College Cork is among the beneficiaries of a €3 billon investment across seven universities, with the money to come from both State coffers as well as the universities’ own resources.

Among the projects planned by UCC that look set to benefit are a new business school, additional student accommodation, an innovation park, an upgrade of the Tyndall National Institute and a new dental hospital.

By Barry Roche, Irish Times

International Researchers Can Reach Their APEX in Cork

International researchers can reach their APEX in Cork, pictured at the launch of APEX, l-r: Dr Sally Cudmore, Manager APC Microbiome Ireland; Ms Oonagh Cahalane, APC; Dr Jill Haynes, APC; Prof Helen Whelton, Head of School of Medicine & Health, UCC and Prof Fergus Shanahan, Director APC Microbiome Ireland, UCC. (Pic: Catherine Buckley)

The SFI Research Centre APC Microbiome Ireland, based in University College Cork, has secured €1,416,000 in competitive funding from the European Union’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie programme, to bring 20 senior international researchers to Ireland, through a new post-doctoral fellowship programme, APEX. The new programme will further help cement Ireland’s international position as a leader in microbiome science.

APEX (APC Postdoctoral EXcellence) is an innovative, intersectoral and trans-disciplinary training, career development and mobility programme, which focuses on the research area of the microbial community (microbiome) living in and on humans and its role in health and disease.

The aim of APEX is to develop the next generation of international scientific leaders who will gain hands-on experience and develop cross-disciplinary and entrepreneurial skills through individual research projects with a mandatory secondment to a non-academic research partner during their two years of fellowship.

Fellowships will be offered in the four thematic APC research areas of ‘Microbes to Molecules’, ‘Diet and Microbes at the Extremes of Life’, ‘Brain-Gut-Microbiota Axis’ and ‘Host-Microbe Dialogue’. The fellowships are targeted at experienced researchers who must be in possession of a doctoral degree or have at least four years of full-time equivalent research experience in academia or industry.

International mobility is a core element of the APEX programme so applicants must be incoming fellows to Ireland.  There will be two calls under the APEX programme, with 10 fellowships awarded in each call. The first call is now open with a submission deadline of 9th April 2018, and a second call will close on April 9th 2019.

The programme was launched by the Director of APC Microbiome Ireland, Prof Fergus Shanahan. For more information on the programme and to check eligibility and mobility requirements visit

UCC designated a University of Sanctuary

University College Cork (UCC) has been designated a University of Sanctuary after awarding seven refugees and asylum seekers full scholarships. The seven recipients will be entitled to free tuition from September 2018 and a number of annual bursaries covering travel expenses.


Commenting on the news, Professor Caroline Fennell, Senior Vice President of UCC, said: “Universities provide a key space in which to challenge societal assumptions and to support and highlight work aimed at fostering a culture of welcome for asylum seekers and refugees.”


Fennell continued: “Through the range of initiatives cultivated over many years in UCC, we are dedicated to providing spaces to learn about what sanctuary means, to develop a sustainable culture of welcome and to share our practices and initiatives with communities and other higher education institutions.”


UCC is the third Irish university to be designated a University of Sanctuary; Dublin City University (DCU) was designated the title in 2016 and the University of Limerick (UL) in July of last year.


The University of Sanctuary status was awarded to UCC by People of Sanctuary Ireland, a network of groups which share the objectives of promoting the integration, inclusion and welfare of refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants, by encouraging every sector of society to make a practical commitment to becoming places of welcome and safety. Trinity has yet to be awarded the status.

International Recognition for UCC Researchers

‘Seekers of Knowledge’ by artist Annette Hennessy

Four University College Cork (UCC) scientists feature in the latest “Highly Cited Researchers” list.

This annual list identifies scientists whose research publications, and the extent to which they have been cited by other scientists globally, place them among the top 1% most cited in their subject field.

The UCC researchers featured in the 2017 most Highly Cited List all work in the area of food, microbiome and health and are Principal Investigators at the APC Microbiome Institute based at UCC and Teagasc.

The researchers named are:

  • Prof Elke Arendt, School of Food & Nutritional Sciences and APC Microbiome Institute, UCC. Her research in the area of food and health is related to cereals and beverages, including gluten free, starter cultures, antimicrobial agents, food structure, brewing and malting and functional foods.
  • Prof John Cryan, Head of Dept. of Anatomy & Neuroscience and APC Microbiome Institute, UCC. His current research interests include the neurobiological basis of stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety and drug dependence. Moreover, his group is also focused on understanding the interaction between brain, gut and the gut microbiome and how it applies to stress and immune-related disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, obesity and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder. He is also interested in applying novel approaches to facilitate drug delivery to the brain in vivo.

Computer Program Developed in Cork Can Detect Seizures in Newborns

A computer program that can detect seizures in newborns has been developed by researchers at the Infant perinatal research centre in Cork.

Tech companies have already expressed interest in the programme which has been tested cotside in a clinical trial involving more than 500 babies across eight European countries.

Prof Geraldine Boylan, principal investigator in the ANSeR study— Algorithm for Neonatal Seizure Recognition — said they have “trained the algorithm over many years to detect seizures”.

The success of the algorithm is proof of the usefulness of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare, she said, “not replacing jobs, but doing a job no-one else can do”.

“We hear a lot about AI taking over the world but there are certain areas in healthcare where we need this kind of help and this is one area where machines may do the job better,” she said.

The two-year trial, completed earlier this year, involved babies deemed at risk of seizure due to a difficult birth or who suffered hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) — a type of brain injury that occurs when an infant’s brain does not receive enough oxygen and blood.

“All the infants were full term but there were clinical concerns that the brain was at risk of injury and we wanted to monitor their brain patterns,” said Prof Boylan.

She said seizures are difficult to detect in babies “because they don’t often show any visible signs”.

“But we need to know when to treat and this AI is like having a tireless eye at the cotside, constantly monitoring the baby’s brainwaves. An alarm goes off if the baby is having a seizure.

“Up to now, the standard monitoring for newborns at risk of seizure has been an EEG, a test that monitors the brain’s electrical activity. We have developed an algorithm that has allowed constant analysis of the EEG.”

The trial showed that seizures can be detected when the algorithm is used in real-time at the cotside, providing expert help “so machine learning does help”, Prof Boylan said.

“EEGs can be hard to interpret so having this expertise cotside will help clinicians pick up seizures as they are happening.”

The algorithm, which has been patented, was developed by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, scientists, engineers and computer programmers at the Infant centre in University College Cork. The trial using the algorithm, the first of its kind, involved the collection of thousands of hours of data.

Prof Boylan said developments in artificial intelligence, offer “limitless opportunities to support our work in the area of neonatal research, monitoring and neuroprotection for babies”.

The preliminary ANSeR findings will be presented tomorrow at the Brain Monitoring and Neuroprotection in the Newborn conference, underway in Killarney.

Prof Boylan is director of the INFANT Centre, professor of neonatal physiology at UCC, and conference host and co-chair.

By Catherine Shanahan, Health Correspondent, Irish Examiner

Oatmeal, Healthy Bugs And A Happy Heart

“Oatmeal; healthy bugs and a happy heart “ according to research published today by scientists at the Science Foundation Ireland-funded APC Microbiome Institute in Cork.
Pictured are (left to right):
Prof Noel Caplice, Professor of Cardiovascular Science, Director of the Centre for Research in Vascular Biology and investigator APC Microbiome Institute, UCC, Prof Catherine Stanton, leader of the research, APC Microbiome Institute and Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, Co. Cork, and Dr Paul Ryan, APC Microbiome Institute, UCC.
Picture: Cathal Noonan

PC Microbiome Institute scientists have confirmed that gut microbes play a role in heart health.  We also demonstrated that we should consume porridge regularly to get the benefits of oat beta glucan for heart and gut health!

Our study, published in Microbiome, found that consumption of oat beta glucan not only lowered blood cholesterol in mice, it also helped keep body weight down and altered both the composition and functionality of the gut microbiota.  The level of butyrate, a type of fatty acid produced by gut bacteria which has been previously shown to protect against diet-induced obesity in mice, was elevated in this study. Oat beta glucan also acted as a prebiotic, and increased bacteria in the gut which are being explored by others to treat obesity.

Plant sterol esters, which too were tested in this study, were found to be the most effective in lowering blood cholesterol and helping to avoid plaque build-up, but caused the greatest weight and adiposity gains and adversely affected the gut microbiota composition of the mice.

Cardiovascular disease is currently responsible for approximately 30% of deaths annually across the globe.  Diet and exercise are known interventions to prevent or slow down the development of atherosclerosis but it has become evident that our gut bacteria also contribute.

In the study mice were fed a high fat diet together with either a food supplement or medication over a period of 24 weeks.  The food supplements used in the study were plant sterol ester (the plant equivalent of cholesterol, currently added to some foods) and oat beta glucan (found in porridge).  The drug used was Atorvastatin, one of the ‘statin’ group of drugs. The particular mice used are susceptible to the build-up of cholesterol in their arteries because they are apoE-/- deficient.

Atorvastatin and plant sterol esters are known to reduce levels of ’bad‘ cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) and triglycerides in the blood, while increasing levels of ’good‘ cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL).  They are used to treat high cholesterol, and to lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, or other heart complications in people with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, or other risk factors. In this study, mice treated with Atorvastatin had similar physiology to the mice treated with oat beta glucan (reduced body weight and percentage body fat).

The takehome message is to take porridge regularly to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease whilst also protecting your gut microbiota.


Paul M. Ryan, Lis E. London, Trent C. Bjorndahl, Rupasri Mandal, Kiera Murphy, Gerald F. Fitzgerald, Fergus Shanahan, R. Paul Ross. David S. Wishart, Noel M. Caplice and Catherine Stanton (2017) Microbiome and metabolome modifying effects of several cardiovascular disease interventions in apo-E-/- mice Microbiome DOI 10.1186/s40168-017-0246-x

New Study at UCC Shows How Your Gut Bacteria Could Influence Anxiety

As it turns out, a healthy gut microbiome could affect the development of conditions relate to anxiety or anxiety-like behavior. The new study by researchers from the APC Microbiome Institute showed the connection in tests involving mice.



As it turns out, a healthy gut microbiome could affect the development of conditions relate to anxiety or anxiety-like behavior. The new study by researchers from the APC Microbiome Institute showed the connection in tests involving mice.


A team of researchers from the APC Microbiome Institute of the University College Cork in Ireland has stumbled upon an intriguing connection between the bacteria living in the human gastrointestinal tract and anxiety. While there are studies that link anxiety-like behaviors to the gut microbiome, this is the first that makes a connection between the microbes and a particular kind of biological molecule called microRNA (miRNA) in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex of the brain.

“Gut microbes seem to influence miRNAs in the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex,” lead research Gerard Clarke said in a press release provided by BioMed Central. “This is important because these miRNAs may affect physiological processes that are fundamental to the functioning of the central nervous system and in brain regions, such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, which are heavily implicated in anxiety and depression.”

The team was able to identify this connection by comparing mice grown in a germ-free environment (GF mice) with normal mice. In the GF mice, 103 miRNA’s in the amygdala and 31 miRNA’s in the prefrontal cortex differed with ordinary mice. Furthermore, adding back gut microbes into the GF mice later on normalized these levels.


Within this study, published in the journal Microbiome, Clarke and his colleagues also observed how depleting the gut microbiota — the collective community of microscopic organisms — of adult mice using antibiotics affected miRNA levels in the brain in a manner similar to GF mice. How this worked remains unclear, so further studies are needed before it might be replicated in clinical tests.

Still, the potential of these findings could offer an alternative approach to treating anxiety-like behavior. Instead of targeting miRNA in the brain, which can be tricky, “our study suggests that some of the hurdles that stand in the way of exploiting the therapeutic potential of miRNAs could be cleared by instead targeting the gut microbiome,” Clarke explained.

According to the most comprehensive study on anxiety to date, about 1 in 13 people around the world experience anxiety or anxiety-related behavior. It’s the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting around 18.1 percent of the population or some 40 million adults every year. It may soon be possible to hep all these people by giving them a healthy gut microbiome.

New Study Highlights Need for a Weight Loss Surgery Strategy

Data from a recent study carried out by the ESPRIT (Evidence to Support Prevention, Implementation and Translation) research group led by Professor Patricia Kearney at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College Cork (UCC), estimate that current weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery) provision in Ireland meets less than 0.1% of the need.

Bariatric surgery is an intervention for patients with severe obesity. The study, funded by Prof Kearney’s Health Research Board Research Leader Award and published in the journal Surgery of Obesity and Related Disorders, estimates the number of older Irish adults who are potentially eligible for and likely to benefit from weight loss surgery.  It calls for a strategy to develop and expand the provision of bariatric care.

The prevalence of severe obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D) is rising, which poses a major challenge for public health in Ireland. While public health strategies focus on the prevention of obesity and lifestyle interventions, the treatment of morbid obesity needs to be recognised as a fundamental aspect in tackling the obesity epidemic. Bariatric surgery is a treatment option as it improves life-expectancy and increases the odds of diabetes remission, leading to a reduction in direct healthcare expenditure. However, bariatric surgical procedures are not commonly performed in Ireland. Only two public bariatric centres exist nationally and between them fewer than 50 procedures are performed annually, meeting less than 0.1% of the need for service provision.

The findings of the study show that 7.97% of older Irish adults are potentially eligible for bariatric surgery according to recent guidelines. This represents approximately 92,500 adults in Ireland.  It is estimated that 12% of these adults have T2D and related complications. The study suggests that focusing the provision of bariatric surgery on this population cohort would potentially improve both patient outcomes and reduce healthcare expenditure. Dr Francis Finucane, Consultant in endocrinology at Galway University Hospital, states that “It is important that this intervention becomes an accessible treatment option for those in greatest need. We sought to estimate the number of people potentially eligible for bariatric surgery in Ireland based on established clinical criteria and then to refine the number of potentially eligible patients by identifying those who suffer from diseases with high morbidity, mortality and healthcare cost, that respond best to bariatric surgery.”

Data for the study was collected from a cross-sectional analysis of the first wave (2009-2011) of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) to estimate the proportion of people eligible for bariatric surgery. TILDA is a nationally representative cohort study of community-dwelling adults aged 50 years and over.

Ms Kate O’Neill from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCC states that “Our findings ought to be considered by policy-makers and should be used to guide resource allocation. One strategy to limit the budget impact is to focus on the patients with T2D and related complications. The provision of bariatric surgery to those in greatest need has the potential to improve both patient outcomes and reduce direct healthcare expenditure quickly.”

UCC: Food and nutritional research improves cancer survival rates

The food industry of the future, producing products for the healthy and sick, will depend on the skills of graduates from programmes such as the four-year BSc in Food Science and Nutritional Science at UCC. Image shows Dr Aoife Ryan measuring body composition in a cancer patient's CT scan. Image: Jim Coughlan
The food industry of the future, producing products for the healthy and sick, will depend on the skills of graduates from programmes such as the four-year BSc in Food Science and Nutritional Science at UCC. Image shows Dr Aoife Ryan measuring body composition in a cancer patient’s CT scan. Image: Jim Coughlan

Up to 80% of cancer patients unintentionally lose weight which can have a devastating impact on their quality of life according to Dr Aoife Ryan, dietitian and lecturer in Nutritional Sciences at UCC.

The weight loss reduces their ability to tolerate chemotherapy and leading to poor survival rates.

The seriousness of this issue is illustrated by the fact that one in five cancer deaths are caused from wasting, not from cancer. The wastage affects not just the muscles involved in movement but also the muscles involved in breathing and in the heart. Dr Ryan says, unfortunately, there is no safe drug to prevent or reverse this or to safely stimulate appetite.

“It seems it is almost the norm to lose weight once you develop cancer. Ten years ago it was thought patients were losing fat. Now we can use their CT scans to measure exactly what patients are losing and we are gaining a huge understanding that that weight loss is actually muscle. It is the rapid loss of muscle.”

A great example of how the roles of nutritionists and food scientists can help cancer patients can be seen from current research at UCC into the development of innovative protein gels, dietary drinks and appetite-increasing supplements to assist cancer patients who are experiencing involuntary and at times life-threatening weight loss.

Cancer patients often develop severe muscle wasting called ‘sarcopenia’ which is most commonly seen in very elderly people and is an inevitable consequence of growing very old. Sarcopenia means a very low muscle mass (<5th centile). In cancer, it develops much more rapidly and at much younger ages. “I have seen cancer patients with a normal muscle mass at diagnosis and two months later they are sarcopenic”, says Dr Ryan who adds that, while severe muscle loss is very common in patients, it isn’t always hugely visible as a person can still be overweight or even obese.

Dr Ryan’s team of nutritional scientists at UCC have performed a detailed study of the nutritional status and quality of life in ambulatory Irish cancer patients attending for chemotherapy at Cork University Hospital and the Mercy University Hospital. In a study which has been on-going since 2011, 1,020 patients have been recruited to date.

“We have looked at over a thousand patients having chemotherapy here in Cork and only 4% of them look underweight. We rarely see obviously wasted cancer patients anymore, nowadays they look normal or overweight but, underneath that fat, there is very little muscle. Over 40% have sarcopenia and these patients live about half as long as people who maintain their muscle.”

It is known that protein intake is of fundamental importance in this regard, and so she is looking at ways to increase this intake and also to address why patients are losing weight in the first place.

“They are losing weight because cancer causes huge amounts of inflammation in their bodies. So can we dampen down inflammation which would cause them to stop losing weight? If they are weight stable they will live longer.”

Towards this goal, Dr Ryan has spent over 12 years studying the fish oil, EPA, which is found in salmon, mackerel and herring. Unfortunately, most people eat very little of it.  To provide new means of incorporating EPA into the diet, nutritionists at UCC have joined forces with food scientists to put a high dose of fish oil into a nutritional drink.  Dr Ryan says the results to date have been encouraging.

“Several clinical trials have shown that, if we give patients with cancer calories, protein and a very high dose of a fish oil, that it will dampen down inflammation and they will lose less muscle. Keeping patients active through exercise is also hugely important”

As part of this work, Dr Ryan develops products in conjunction with colleagues including Dr Shane Crowley and Professor Alan Kelly of the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences at UCC.  Professor Kelly says this work is a perfect example of where a complementary relationship between Nutrition and Food Science can deliver hugely important outcomes.

“Food Scientists have the skills to develop products the design of which has been informed by the nutritional understanding of what food does to the body and, in this case, the particular issues of cancer patients are that we hope to solve.   But there might be other considerations to do with the texture or the structure, for example in terms of chewing and swallowing and digestibility or flavour. So the food scientist says “How do we design that product? How do we mask flavour?  Any product is ingredients plus a process we apply to it, so food scientists will find the right ingredients for the product properties that are needed and work out a way to turn these into a desirable, safe and high-quality product.”

Meanwhile, food scientists at UCC are also developing high protein gels for cancer patients, based on the fact that patients undergoing chemotherapy often suffer from metallic tastes in their mouths so they have taste challenges as well as appetite challenges. The gels would be tasteless and could be added in to food without affecting texture and yet deliver critical nutrients and taste sensations tailored to the sensory perceptions of cancer patients.

Scientists at UCC working as part of the national Food for Health Ireland consortium have also found small peptides, released from proteins from milk that can mimic the action of hunger hormones in the body. Initial studies in animals conducted at UCC showed increased food intake when given these peptides.  Dr Ryan says they have now encapsulated the peptides for trials in healthy humans to examine bioactivity and these may eventually be trialed in diseased populations including cancer.

“They take it in a capsule and it is released in the small intestine. And then it has actions there where we think it will stimulate appetite. If trials are positive it would represent a safe way of stimulating appetite.”

The food industry of the future, delivering products which meet the needs of the healthy and sick, will depend on the skills of graduates from programmes such as the four-year BSc programmes in Food Science and Nutritional Science at UCC.  For more information about Food Science and Nutritional courses at UCC visit   There is a huge demand for food science and nutritional graduates with over 93% of Food Science and Nutritional graduates in full-time employment or doing post-graduate courses according to the First Destination of UCC Graduates Surveyy 2015.

For more on this story contact:

Ruth Mc Donnell, Head of Media and PR, Office of Marketing and Communications, University College Cork Mob: 086-0468950

The ASSERT Centre Together with Foundation Partner Mentice Introduce a State-of-the-Art Training Solution for Stroke

International Faculty and course attendees at the Mechanical Thrombectomy for Acute Stroke training program held at the ASSERT Centre today. The program provides a close to reality replica of the environment experienced by physicians when performing the procedure.  The program was held in conjunction with our foundation partner Mentice and is kindly sponsored by Stryker NV.

The ASSERT Centre at University College Cork in Ireland recently conducted a new simulation-based training for Mechanical Thrombectomy of acute ischemic stroke, featuring Mentice’s high-fidelity endovascular training solution.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and long-term disability in the Western world. Ischemic stroke is accountable for 80% of all strokes. During an ischemic stroke the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain is blocked due to the formation of blood clots in an artery in the brain, or due to narrowing of the arteries (stenosis) which blocks or impedes blood flow.

Mechanical Thrombectomy is an endovascular procedural treatment for stroke which has been proven to save lives and reduce disability in patients with large vessel occlusion strokes. Access to this treatment is limited due to lack of interventional neuro-endovascular specialists, doctors specially trained in performing this procedure. To address this deficit, the ASSERT Centre at University College Cork, in conjunction with industry partners Mentice AB (Gothenburg, Sweden) and Stryker Neurovascular (Fremont, CA) hosted a pioneering training course to help train doctors in this life saving technique.

ASSERT Director/ Clinical Lead, Professor Barry O Reilly, welcomed the faculty and attendees to the Centre for the two-day course at the state of the art facility in Ireland stating that “in an age when stroke is one of the leading causes of death and long-term disability this pioneering course provides structured training in life saving techniques”. Professor O Reilly added “we are privileged to have the course facilitated by leading Interventional Neuroradiologists at the ASSERT Centre and are confident that this programme will be the first of many”.

The two-day programme, utilized a new training solution for thrombectomy, based on world-leading endovascular simulation developed and provided by Mentice. The solution offers metrics which objectively measure every step a trainee takes, providing direct guidance and assessment of performance. The Mentice technology delivers a close-to-reality replica of the environment experienced by physicians when performing such procedures.

Neuro-endovascular specialists from Germany, Denmark & the UK guided doctors step-by-step through the procedure on the Mentice simulator. The course is based on a proficiency based progression method which requires the trainee to demonstrate a validated and quantitatively defined aptitude of the procedure.  Professor Tony Gallagher, Director of Research and Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning at the ASSERT Centre pioneered this method of training which utilizes baseline simulation training of a procedure prior to clinical training.  Previous clinical trials in surgery have demonstrated that doctors who completed simulation-based training prior to clinical training perform 40 – 70% better than doctors trained in the traditional way.

“Mechanical thrombectomy for acute stroke”, says Professor Gallagher of ASSERT, “is a life-changing treatment for many gravely ill patients.  The success of the treatment is determined, in no small part, by the skills of the clinician performing the procedure”.

“We are proud to partner with the ASSERT Centre at University College Cork and are happy that our state-of-the-art technology is being implemented for this course,” says Mentice CEO Göran Malmberg. “Our aim has been to build a simulation-based training system that uses validated performance metrics to perform and assess training to proficiency. In this structure, leveraging the principles of proficiency based progression, physicians are trained until they demonstrate a validated and quantitatively defined skills level.”

Mr Ghislain Gackiere, Vice President, International of Stryker Neurovascular, sponsors of the course stated that “This state of the art training course combining high-fidelity simulation with a ‘proficiency-based progression’ training method will, in our opinion, contribute to making the training of existing and new operators more effective, therefore allowing more stroke patients access to endovascular treatment”.