Single injection ‘could repair damaged hearts’ after world-first trial

(l-r): Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences, UCC; John Nolan from New Ross, Wexford, who was a participant in the clinical trial. Photo: Clare Keogh.
(l-r): Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences, UCC; John Nolan from New Ross, Wexford, who was a participant in the clinical trial. Photo: Clare Keogh.

A UCC professor has shown in a trial, the first of its kind in the world, that low dose insulin-like growth factor, injected into the heart to repair damage to the muscle, improves remodelling for heart attack patients.

Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences at UCC, and his cardiologist colleagues at Cork University Hospital successfully tested the growth factor in the clinical trial (RESUS-AMI), funded by a €1 million grant under the joint HRB-SFI Translational Research Award programme, of 47 patients who had experienced large attacks.

Around 20% of people who suffer heart attacks have severe ongoing difficulties because of lasting damage to heart muscle even after the best current therapies, often resulting in patients developing long-term heart failure, associated with increased morbidity and mortality.

Patients received two different low dose preparations of insulin-like growth factor or placebo in a randomised double blinded clinical trial, with results showing those who received the higher dose had improved remodelling of their heart muscle in the two-month follow-up after their heart attack, which correlated with other measures of improved heart performance.

“We are delighted that an important human study like this could be funded in Ireland and performed in Cork. This pilot trial is the first of its kind worldwide showing that single injection of low dose IGF1 is safe and can improve cardiac repair after a large heart attack,” said Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences, UCC.

“We hope that these findings can be replicated in potentially larger trials of many hundred subjects in the future. A significant minority of our patients currently remain unwell after a large heart attack despite best clinical practice and we are excited by the possibility that cardiac repair therapy may help these patients,” he added.

If future bigger trials are successful, the growth factor could be applied more widely to improve the quality of life and life expectancy of any patient who has suffered a large heart attack, and be financially beneficial to the health service by reducing ongoing care costs.

John Nolan from New Ross, Wexford, became one of the patients in the trial, after suffering a heart attack in December 2014. “I feel I was blessed to be asked to be involved; I had confidence that good would come from it, in terms of how they explained it to me. Looking back on it now, I feel it was the right choice.”

John’s wife, Margaret, added: “Even as a nurse, I felt very vulnerable at the thought that my husband could’ve died. I speak on behalf of myself and my children, I’m really grateful for the aftercare and attention John received as a result of being on his trial. They updated us after every procedure as to how he was doing.”

Professor Noel Caplice, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences, UCC; pictured with John Nolan from New Ross, a participant on the trial, and his wife Margaret.

According to Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the HRB: “Results like these are a perfect illustration of why the HRB has invested so much in building Ireland’s capacity to conduct clinical trials; so that our brilliant researchers, like Professor Caplice, can conduct research that will improve the outcomes for patients. I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in this ground-breaking project, which could have a profound global impact.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, added: “I am delighted to learn about these exciting results emerging from the Translational Research Award Programme, and congratulate Professor Caplice and his colleagues on this important finding. Science Foundation Ireland is proud to invest in exceptional, collaborative research groups that can produce life-changing advances in health research, with the potential to positively impact on patient well-being globally.”

The research has been recognised and peer-reviewed by the European Society of Cardiology and the trial was presented for the first time at its Heart Failure 2017 conference in Paris this morning (April 29).

For more on this story contact:

Lynne Nolan, Media & PR Officer, UCC: 087 210 1119 or lynne.nolan@ucc.ie.

Next stop, Nobel Laureate Meeting, for UCC researcher

David McNulty, Postdoctoral Researcher, Applied Nanoscience Group, Department of Chemistry:
David McNulty, Postdoctoral Researcher, Applied Nanoscience Group, Department of Chemistry: “Attending the Lindau meeting will be a life changing experience for me.”

Dr David McNulty, a postdoctoral researcher at UCC, is one of just three people from Ireland selected to participate in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau in June.

Dr McNulty, a Postdoctoral Researcher in Dr Colm O’Dwyer’s Applied Nanoscience Group in UCC’s Department of Chemistry, described being one of only 400 young scientists from 76 countries invited to the meeting, this year focused on chemistry, as “a great honour.”

“Attending the Lindau meeting will be a life-changing experience for me, as it will give me an invaluable chance to meet some of the elite scientists in the world, share experiences with them, listen to their advice and essentially allow me to stand on the shoulders of giants.”

Dr McNulty’s research is focused on metal oxide and semiconductor nanostructures as electrode materials for next generation Li-ion batteries.

The scientists selected – all outstanding undergraduate students, graduate students and post-docs under the age of 35 conducting research in the field of chemistry – will meet with Nobel Laureates at Lake Constance from June 25 to 30.

UCC, Nobel Laureate Meeting

More than 30 Nobel laureates have already confirmed their participation, including Bernard Feringa and Jean-Pierre Sauvage, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016. Key topics to be discussed include Big Data, climate change and the role of science in a “post-truth” era.

Dr McNulty and the other scientists have successfully passed a multi-stage international selection process, and will come from countries including the US, Japan, Israel, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Benin, with a 45-55 female-male ratio.

“For the field of chemistry, that is a substantial number”, according to Wolfgang Lubitz, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, Vice-President of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and scientific co-chairperson of this year’s meeting.

“The quality of applicants was again extremely high”, said Burkhard Fricke, professor emeritus for theoretical physics and coordinator of the selection process. “Some of the young scientists who applied had very impressive CVs. It is highly unfortunate that we can only invite 400 of them.”

“The Nobel prizes are the most prestigious prize in the intellectual realm. The findings of previous Nobel Laureates not only represent the most significant advances made within the scientific community, they have also had an immeasurable impact on the day-to-day lives of people worldwide,” Dr McNulty added.

UCC researcher honoured for brain seizure predictions

Dr Andriy Temko, a research fellow at the INFANT centre, was named winner of the Kaggle challenge.
Dr Andriy Temko, a research fellow at the INFANT centre, was named winner of the Kaggle challenge.

A UCC researcher has won a prestigious international competition for his work in predicting seizures in the human brain through long-term EEG recordings.

Dr Andriy Temko, a research fellow at the INFANT centre, was named as winner of the Kaggle challenge, and a $10,000 first prize.

Together with data scientists from Ornon, France; Curitiba, Brazil; and Minneapolis, US, Dr Temko developed an artificial intelligence solution that showed the highest accuracy among nearly 500 competing teams from around the world.

The aim of the event was to develop seizure forecasting systems with the potential to help patients with epilepsy lead more normal lives. Epilepsy afflicts nearly 1% of the world’s population, and is characterised by the occurrence of spontaneous seizures.

The challenge was organised and sponsored by the National Institute of Health, American Epilepsy Society and Melbourne University.

In order for electrical brain activity (EEG) based seizure forecasting systems to work effectively, computational algorithms must reliably identify periods of increased probability of seizure occurence. If these brain states can be identified, devices designed to warn patients of impending seizures would be possible. Patients could avoid potentially dangerous activities like driving or swimming, and medications could be administered only when needed to prevent seizures, reducing overall side effects.

For more information, visit: https://www.kaggle.com/c/melbourne-university-seizure-prediction

Dr Temko is a PI of the Wellcome Trust Seed Award in Science. In collaboration with Dr. Emanuel Popovici and Prof. Geraldine Boylan, he is working on the development of a newborn smart brain ‘stethoscope‘ — a portable device that will allow a medical professional to listen to an infant’s brainwaves and quickly assess their brain health status. Such a low cost device for sound-based observation of brain health could be used by all healthcare professionals globally, greatly improving access to diagnosis and treatment for disadvantaged communities.

‘UCC’s the best thing that’s happened to me’

Samar Khan is studying for an MA in Women’s Studies at UCC.
Samar Khan is studying for an MA in Women’s Studies at UCC.

When I arrived in Ireland last September, alone on my first trip to Europe, I was reminded of how, as a young Muslim girl growing up in the State of Uttar Pradesh in India, I was always discouraged from travelling alone. Using public transport was prohibited because it would have exposed me to public gaze and increased the chances of harassment by strangers. My mobility was curbed for my own safety, I was told.

Living and studying away from home in New Delhi, for five years in a democratic and academic environment cultivated my personality, and my perceptions and beliefs evolved. Today, I see travel not only as a mode of exploring new geographical locations, but more importantly, of meeting new people with different perspectives and ideas.

Carrying my luggage on my back and travelling alone from one place to another on buses, trains and planes, has instilled in me the kind of self-confidence that no patronising protective institution ever could. As an Indian Muslim woman, I think this kind of self-realisation is a big achievement in itself.

I am currently pursuing my Masters in Women’s Studies at UCC and I’m able to study in this world-class institution because I was given this opportunity by the Irish Government in the form of a scholarship and for this, I am very grateful. I know that not all deserving people get to enjoy the privilege that I have been given.

I identify as an Indian Muslim woman because my personal experience and academic training gives me the confidence to assert my identity wherever possible and not just to be referred to as another ‘international student’.

I believe that our historical, political and social context play a vital role in shaping our future. My parents’ decision to send me away to study was one that led me to where I am today. It took me some time to comprehend that our political situation in society largely determines the kind of life we live. Discrimination is so rampant and systematic in society, that it has been internalised and normalised in our day-to-day lives.

If we critically analyse, we observe that the construction of language is also misogynistic. A girl like me at 24 would be expected to settle down, while for a guy this is the crucial time to establish himself professionally. The driving factor that led me to join the Women’s Studies MA programme at UCC was to challenge this social tendency and through my course, I intend to use gender as a tool of analysis for feminist research. After only one semester, I can already see my vision taking shape, thanks to the expert faculty and my amazing bunch of classmates.

Religion has always been used politically by the powerful elites to subjugate the weak. If we talk about Islam, it is seen to be a religion where women are treated as inferior to men with virtually no legal rights. However, we tend to forget that Islamic philosophy and Islamic practice are two different things. One of the most damaging phases for Islam was the age of feudalism that bred patriarchy, institutionalised misogyny and made a gender neutral compilation of the Qur’an and its interpretation something aggressively masculine.

As a critical believer who thinks that the emergence of Islam was a political response to the historical problems of that space and time, be it slavery, adultery, female infanticide, I challenge the perception that the same religion encourages gender discrimination.

I think the lack of female scholars in Islamic philosophy feeds into the misinterpretation of Islam. We need more women academics to research and investigate religious texts and to promote the basic philosophy before it can be manipulated against the economic and political development of women.

My aim is to become one of these academics by making the most of the resources I’ve been given by UCC so that we can be in a position to counter religious questions on a woman’s autonomy more theoretically. And thanks to the exposure and experience I have been given, I’m optimistic about that.

This university has given me the chance to speak, and more importantly, to be heard as a person of lower status, a woman belonging to a minority community in my country. In UCC’s conducive environment of bilateral learning, I feel comfortable and confident to voice what I think. In a set-up without hierarchy, I feel myself delivering my best and really being productive. It reaffirms my faith in academia and its role in building a better and more democratic world. Coming to Ireland and studying at UCC may be the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Samar Khan is studying for an MA in Women’s Studies at UCC. Students benefit from academic expertise across a range of disciplines including sociology, applied social studies, law, history, literature, philosophy, folklore, politics, linguistics, performance, popular culture, and religions. Find out more here: https://www.ucc.ie/en/womensstudies/mainwomensstudies/ or follow @uccwomenstudies on Twitter.

UCC scores gold at synthetic biology competition

UCC’s Limited Lactis” iGEM team pictured with Dr. Mark Tangney, Cork Cancer Research Centre (front, second left); Brandon Malone, iGEM Team Leader, School of Pharmacy (centre) and Dr Cormac Gahan, APC Microbiome Institute, School of Pharmacy and School of Microbiology. Photo: Tomas Tyner, UCC.
UCC’s Limited Lactis” iGEM team pictured with Dr. Mark Tangney, Cork Cancer Research Centre (front, second left); Brandon Malone, iGEM Team Leader, School of Pharmacy (centre) and Dr Cormac Gahan, APC Microbiome Institute, School of Pharmacy and School of Microbiology. Photo: Tomas Tyner, UCC.

UCC’s Limited Lactis team was awarded a gold medal recently at the iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machine) competition in Boston.

More than 600 teams from top universities across the globe, including MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford took part in the competition, which is held up as the gold standard for ‘research-led education’.

The Cork team, the only Irish entrants in the competition, used the bacterium Lactococcus lactis, a generally recognised as safe (GRAS) bacterium, commonly used in food production, to develop a potential new vaccine against Leishmaniasis, a neglected tropical disease which is increasing in geographical distribution, and also cancer.

Synthetic Biology is a burgeoning approach to designing and making novel products from biology, which is revolutionising what is possible in tackling world needs in health, energy, food and beyond.

Leishmaniasis affects some of the world’s poorest people and is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, a weak immune system and lack of financial resources. An estimated 900,000–1.3 million new cases and 20,000-30,000 deaths occur annually. Leishmaniasis is linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, building of dams, irrigation schemes, and urbanisation.

The UCC team worked voluntarily, both in the laboratory and beyond, engaging with people in disease-affected regions such as Honduras, where diseases like Leishmaniasis is a serious problem. Team instructor, Yensi Flores, a PhD candidate at the Cork Cancer Research Centre and APC Microbiome Institute, travelled to Honduras to gain an insight into the realities of developing a suitable treatment for Leishmaniasis. She connected the team with various stakeholders on the ground. The team also engaged in significant outreach work, teaching Cork school pupils about synthetic biology and conducting charity fundraising activities.

The team, which was comprised of students from UCC Pharmacy, Medicine, Genetics, and BioMedical Science andhosted by the APC Microbiome Institute, Cork Cancer Research Centre and the School of Biochemistry, received financial support from the APC Microbiome Institute, Breakthrough Cancer Research, UCC College of Medicine & Health, Fyffes, the EU, Janssen and Eli Lilly.

“I was blown away with how much was achieved in such a short time by undergraduate students, and how sophisticated the resulting technology is, all due to the enthusiasm of the students and the power of Synthetic Biology,” said Mark Tangney PhD MBA, Cork Cancer Research Centre & APC Microbiome Institute, UCC.

UCD graduate elected first female President of Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

 

She will be the first woman to hold the post in the college’s 360-year history.

“Ireland is recognised globally for the high quality of its medical graduates and trainees,” said Professor Horgan on her election. “I am committed to ensuring that we continue to train our doctors to provide world class medical care and to provide leadership in our health service in these challenging times.”

Professor Horgan graduated from UCD School of Medicine, University College Dublin in 1986 and was awarded an MD by the university in 1995.

A consultant physician in infectious diseases and internal medicine at Cork University Hospital, she also serves as Dean of University College Cork (UCC) School of Medicine.

The last three Presidents of the RCPI have been UCD graduates. The serving Masters of Dublin’s three maternity hospitals also completed their medical studies at UCD.

RCPI is a postgraduate medical training college. It educates its students with the latest research and techniques to ensure they maintain best medical practices for current and future health needs.

UCC – New clinical trial for Malignant Melanoma patients

Dr Derek Power, Oncology Clinical Trials Unit, Cork University Hospital and Dr Declan Soden, Cork Cancer Research Centre, University College Cork. Image: Tomás Tyner, UCC

Cork Cancer Research Centre, based at UCC, announce the launch of a new clinical trial for the treatment of malignant melanoma, aimed at significantly improving patient outcomes.

In Ireland there are approximately 630 new cases of melanoma diagnosed each year with 110 people losing their lives to the disease annually. Melanoma mortality is increasing very rapidly with the number of deaths per annum expected to reach 150 by 2020.

The new treatment being investigated involves a combination of Ipilimumab (“Ipi”, tradename Yervoy), a Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) drug, and tumour Electroporation, which is pioneered at CCRC.  It aims to open up cancer cells with electrical pulses to facilitate the immunotherapy treatment to be even more effective, enabling the patient’s immune system to respond against the cancer.  The study is supported by UCC, BMS and Breakthrough Cancer Research.

The trial, which is sponsored by BMS, has just commenced at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and is the first of its kind in the world.  It is being led by Principal Investigator and Consultant Oncologist Dr Derek Power and Scientific Investigator Dr Declan Soden of the Cork Cancer Research Centre, who will enrol suitable patients from around the country.

IPI has been successfully used to date as a treatment of advanced melanoma in adults, significantly improving survival rates in up to 18% of patients who received the drug (*1). IPI is the first in a line of new immunotherapies that prevent tumours from shutting down the patient’s immune system when it’s attacking the cancer.

Electrochemotherapy (Electroporation combined with chemotherapy), which is pioneered at the Cork Cancer Research Centre with funding from Breakthrough Cancer Research, has received considerable attention in the last few years as an emerging therapy for use in cancer tumours. It involves delivering short bursts of electricity directly to the tumour making it porous and dramatically increasing its absorption of chemotherapy drugs.

The new study entitled “Enhanced Malignant Melanoma Immunological engagement using sequential therapy with Ipilimumab and electrochemotherapy”, or EMMIE for short, is a single centre trial aiming to establish the safety and efficacy of treating patients with advanced melanoma.

The trial of the new treatment regime has been approved by the Health Products Regulatory Authority, (formerly known as the Irish Medicine Board), the state agency which regulates and monitors the safe use of human and animal medicines in Ireland, and is being run with the support of BMS, who are providing the immunotherapy free of charge to University College Cork, and the Oncology Clinical Trials Unit in Cork University Hospital.

Support for this approach has also just been validated in a clinical paper published in Cancer Immunology Research (*2), which showed a 50% increase in survival rates in a trial group who received combined IPI with a locally ablative treatment.

Patients eligible to be included in the study will receive the licensed medicine, Ipilimumab, in accordance with its licenced use as a 1st or 2nd line treatment with electrochemotherapy being additionally applied to shrink the skin melanoma nodule.

Principal Investigator on the trial and Clinician and Consultant Medical Oncologist with Mercy and Cork University Hospitals, Dr Derek Power, welcomed the new developments in immunotherapy stating, ““It is only in the last few years that cancer researchers have unravelled one of the key protective mechanisms that cancers use to stop the immune system from recognising and destroying these abnormal cells. Cancer cells send out signals around the tumour to turn off locally present immune cells, which has, as a result, prevented immunotherapies, like Ipilimumab, from working. Overcoming this immune ‘cloaking’ of the tumour has become the key to making immune therapy work for patients.”

Dr Power continued, “Ipilimumab is already being used daily for patients across Ireland with established impacts for these patients. CCRC are at the forefront of research in relation to their electrochemotherapy treatment and we are excited at the synergy that will be created with the combined regime of these two treatments. We are already seeing good immune responses from Electrochemotherapy and with the addition of Ipilimumab we are excited to see the results from this enhanced treatment for patients.”

Dr Declan Soden, Principal Investigator and Manager at the Cork Cancer Research Centre welcomed the trial, stating, “Our research at the CCRC has shown that treating tumours with a short burst of energy can make them leaky or porous. This allows for a more focused absorption of chemotherapy allowing for a substantial reduction in the concentration required and essentially eliminating drug-based side effects for patients. Our studies have expanded from patients with skin cancers (breast, malignant melanoma) to endoscopically accessible cancers like colon, oesophageal.  We hope to treat patients with other poor prognosis cancers using this approach in the near future.”

“This electrical pulse can also very significantly spark an immune engagement against the cancer, which in combination with immunotherapies like IPI, has been found to lead to better outcomes for the patients. The success of this trial should lead to other studies for patients suffering from poor prognosis cancer where there are currently limited options available” concluded Dr Soden.

Doctors with patients who may be suitable for this trial should refer them to Dr Power of the Oncology Clinical Trials Unit in Cork University Hospital or Dr Declan Soden of the Cork Cancer Research Centre in University College Cork.

For more on Cork Cancer Research Centre see www.ccrc.ie

UCC Professor Barry O’Sullivan named top SFI researcher

Professor Barry O'Sullivan, Director of Insight at UCC.

 

Professor Barry O’Sullivan, Director of Insight at UCC, has been named SFI Researcher of the Year, recognizing his significant contribution to the Irish research community in his career.

He has been honored for his “exceptional scientific and engineering research outputs” combined with his ability to communicate and, where appropriate, exploit his research.

 

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said “2016 marks the addition of five new awards recognizing crucial areas of research and development including: industry collaborations, entrepreneurship, communication, public engagement and outstanding early career researchers. I want to congratulate the award winners on their hard work and accomplishments. I hope their success will be a source of inspiration to others.”

The recipients of SFI Early Career Researcher of the year are Prof Valeria Nicolosi, AMBER, SFI Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin and Dr Martin O’Halloran, National University of Ireland Galway.

The SFI Industry Partnership Award recognized AMBER, Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin and Merck.

APC Ltd – Prof Brian Glennon and Dr Mark Barrett, SFI SSPC Research Centre, University College Dublin received the SFI Entrepreneurship Award.

Dr Sabina Brennan of Trinity College Dublin, received the SFI Outstanding Contribution to STEM Communication award, recognizing her outstanding contribution to the popularization of science, while the SFI Best Reported Impact Award went to Dr Emmeline Hill, University College Dublin.

Andrea Zanetti a Chemistry PhD student at University College Dublin captured the SFI Research Image of the Year, titled Organic ‘ChemisTree’, a Telescopic View.

International Partnership Awards

The international partnership between Science Foundation Ireland, the National Science Foundation in the US and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland also recognised three new international collaborations between Research Centres in the Republic of Ireland, the United States and Northern Ireland.

“These three new collaborations demonstrate the value of linking research clusters across the Atlantic, and of partnerships between the scientific and entrepreneurial communities,” said National Science Foundation Director France Córdova. “To augment Science Foundation Ireland’s financial commitments to the new centers, NSF will make new investments in the U.S.-based centers that collaborate with them. These partnerships provide us with the opportunity to address global research challenges.”

Science Foundation Ireland is investing €2.5 million into the three international collaborations over the course of 24-36 months. During the course of the collaborations, the three new awards will employ 8 postdoctoral researchers and 2 PhD students in Ireland, in addition to giving an opportunity to two summer students to work on cutting edge-research. The collaborations aim to foster entrepreneurship and economic development in the participating countries by directly engaging with at least 14 companies during the course of the three awards.

The Science Foundation Ireland funded Research Centre, MaREI, together with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), is collaborating with the NSF Engineering Research Centre, Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems (FREEDM) and the Energy Power & Intelligent Control Research Cluster (EPIC) at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

Each partner will contribute to a specific area of the project. MaREI will lead the energy systems modelling efforts, ESRI provides insight into socio-economic aspects, FREEDM will bring expertise on distributed energy management solutions and systems-level theory, modelling and control, and EPIC-QUB will lead the communication-centred activities.

UCC develops arsenal of alternatives to antibiotics

Photo: L-R Orla O'Sullivan, Paula O'Connor, Fergus Collins and Mary Read
L-R Orla O’Sullivan, Paula O’Connor, Fergus Collins and Mary Read

Scientists at the APC Microbiome Institute at UCC have identified an arsenal of new antimicrobials which can kill many harmful bacteria.

The latest antimicrobial, called formicin, is a bacteriocin which is a small bacterially produced antimicrobial protein. The research on formicin has been picked up by the editor of the journal Microbiology where it is highlighted and published this week.

“Formicin was picked up in our most recent screening for new antimicrobials. We have identified 20 new small proteins to date including Thuricin and Lacticin 3147” said Professor Paul Ross, who leads the research with Professor Colin Hill at the APC Microbiome Institute in University College Cork and Teagasc. “We plan to further develop these compounds which have important implications for human and animal health.”

Antimicrobial resistance poses one of the biggest threats to global health today.  According to the WHO (2015) antibiotic resistance in the European Union alone, is estimated to cause 25,000 deaths and cost more than US$1.5 billion every year in healthcare expenses and productivity losses. Without effective antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of infections, many of the achievements of modern medicine such as organ transplantations, chemotherapy and surgeries such as caesarean sections become much more dangerous.

“The new antimicrobial, Formicin, was isolated from Bacillus paralichenformis APC1576, a bacteria which was originally isolated from the intestine of a mackerel” said Fergus Collins, the PhD student at Teagasc, Moorepark who discovered Formicin. “Formicin can kill a wide range of harmful bacteria including the Gram positive pathogensStaphyloccous aureus, Clostridium difficile, Listeria monocytogenes and Steptococcus mutans, a causative agent of tooth decay.”

Formicin is a member of a subclass of bacteriocins called lantibiotics which contain certain modified amino acids.  Formicin  is made up of 2 lantibiotic peptides.  The first peptide likely binds to the cell membrane of the bacterial target and subsequently recruits the second formicin peptide which then inserts into the membrane; the resulting pore formed then causes cell death. Formicin is unique among lantibiotics due to differences in the peptide’s charge and composition.

This research was supported by Science Foundation Ireland through a Research Centre grant to the APC Microbiome Institute.

 

Full reference:

Formicin – A novel broad spectrum two-component lantibiotic produced by Bacillus paralicheniformis APC 1576

Collins F.W., O’Connor, P.M., O’Sulllivan, O., Rea, M.C., Hill, C. and Ross R.P.  Microbiology, September 2016 162: 1662-1671, doi: 10.1099/mic.0.000340

http://mic.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/micro/10.1099/mic.0.000340#tab2

 

Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27450592

For further information contact Dr Catherine Buckley, Communications & O

First research grant in Traffic Medicine awarded to UCC research team

Emmy Racine UCC, Katherine Thackerary UCC, Prof. Des O’Neill NOFM, Dr. Aisling Jennings UCC, Dr. Carol Sinnott UCC, Prof. Colin Bradley UCC, Declan Naughton RSA, Linda Horgan UCC, Dr. Siobhan Cusack UCC, Lisa MacSharry UCC, Prof. Jeanne Jackson UCC and Dr. Tony Foley UCC. (Photo: Ger MacCarty)
Emmy Racine UCC, Katherine Thackerary UCC, Prof. Des O’Neill NOFM, Dr. Aisling Jennings UCC, Dr. Carol Sinnott UCC, Prof. Colin Bradley UCC, Declan Naughton RSA, Linda Horgan UCC, Dr. Siobhan Cusack UCC, Lisa MacSharry UCC, Prof. Jeanne Jackson UCC and Dr. Tony Foley UCC. (Photo: Ger MacCarty)

The €40, 000 grant was awarded by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), in association with the National Programme Office for Traffic Medicine (NPOTM) following a competitive process.

Dr Carol Sinnott and Dr Colin Bradley, Department of General Practice at University College Cork, will lead a team of five researchers, representing UCC, the ICGP and the Alzheimer Society of Ireland.

The research project ‘Talking to patients with cognitive impairment about fitness to drive: Current approaches and possible improvement strategies for a general practice setting’ will investigate driving with cognitive impairment. Its main purpose is to look at how patients with cognitive impairment and GPs manage the discussion around safe driving.

Prof Desmond O’Neill, National Director NPOTM emphasizes the importance of research in the area of cognitive impairment and driving,

“A part of the success of the [Traffic Medicine] Programme on Medical Fitness to Drive in Ireland stems from its roots in evidence-based practice. It is very important that we develop research in traffic medicine in Ireland which is reflected in clinical practice, and we are delighted that this comprehensive project on cognitive impairment and driving is the focus of the first RSA Research Award in Traffic Medicine, as this is an emerging and very relevant topic to road safety and patient care.

One of the main aims of the Traffic Medicine Programme is to keep people mobile for as long as possible. In older people, driving facilitates independence, social engagement and interaction, and is a contributor to quality of life and well-being. Over one in ten adults aged over 50 years have mild or moderate cognitive impairment. Difficulties discussing fitness to drive can be compounded by the presence of unacknowledged or undiagnosed cognitive impairment (usually due to dementia and related syndromes, such a mild cognitive impairment).  However, communication techniques can be taught and can improve patient care in general practice.

Declan Naughton, Road Safety Authority welcomes today’s announcement,

“The RSA is delighted to be involved with this project. Research that provides an evidence base for future policy is critical. This research will give us an insight into the engagement between drivers and GPs at a time when drivers may be feeling vulnerable. Understanding and responding to any barriers to this conversation, happening in a positive environment will benefit both drivers and their doctors.”

Both the approaches currently used by GPs and the experiences that patients with cognitive impairment have had when discussing fitness to drive with their GPs will be explored by carrying out separate sets of interviews with patients or their carers. The data from both sets of interviews will then be merged and used to develop new training materials for GPs. This research will address an urgent need for better communication strategies, which will help GPs discuss cognitive impairment and fitness to drive in a positive proactive way and encourage early assessments of fitness to drive which will maximise safety for the patient and other road users nationally.

Dr Carol Sinnott, co-lead of the research team is looking forward to beginning the study, “We are delighted to have been given this wonderful opportunity to investigate an area of traffic medicine that is so necessary and is intended to help to keep people driving safely for longer.”