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Queen’s University part of US-Ireland Tripartite Collaboration to research cardiovascular technology

Darragh McArt

The Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queens University Belfast has been selected as part of a US-Ireland tripartite center-to-center (C2C) collaboration to develop smart cardiovascular repair technologies.

The Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queens University Belfast has been selected as part of a US-Ireland tripartite center-to-center (C2C) collaboration to develop smart cardiovascular repair technologies.

The collaborative project will bring together experts from Queen’s University Belfast, NUI Galway and Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) to develop technologies aimed at improving cardiovascular health monitoring.

The goal of this US-Ireland tripartite center-to-center (C2C) collaboration is to use combined expertise in advanced sensor systems, microanalytical systems, biomaterials, energy harvesting, and systems biology to transform current medical interventions and standards of care to research and develop externally-powered implants for continuous cardiovascular health monitoring.

Addressing the award, Dr Darragh McArt from Queen’s University Belfast said: “The Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast is delighted to be involved in such a significant programme and connected to key partners in Ireland and in the US. Our abilities to harness cutting edge technologies to monitor and alleviate diseases is paramount to our ambition to offer new paradigms for precision medicine.”

Dr Manus Biggs, Lecturer in Biomedical Engineering at NUI Galway added: "This US-Ireland R&D Partnership award will facilitate exciting multi-disciplinary research between three centres of excellence in science and engineering. We look forward to working with our partners in the US and Northern Ireland on this critical healthcare need.”

Given rising healthcare costs, there has been an ongoing move toward personalized medicine, shorter hospital stays and ambulatory health monitoring via remote data acquisition. Cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of death globally, resulting in close to 20 million deaths in 2018. However, despite evidence-based medical and pharmacologic advances the management of cardiovascular disease remains challenging, whether in the ambulatory setting where periodic disease monitoring has failed, or in the inpatient setting where readmission rates and morbidity remains high. It is estimated that 90% of cardiovascular diseases are preventable, yet there is an urgent need to develop strategies to reduce hospitalizations and readmission rates for cardiovascular disease.

The invention of various cardiac sensors based on electrocardiograph (ECG) and blood pressure monitoring offers new opportunities in cardiovascular diseases prevention through long-term monitoring of vital physiological signals. Work is currently aimed at improving these devices with a view to making the electronic–biological interface as seamless as possible, providing continuous monitoring of patients following surgery, revealing signs of surgical recovery or disease progression. This allows doctors to record physiological performance, track nascent or progressing pathologies or even deliver treatment should the patient require urgent life-saving medical attention. Critically, bio-monitoring approaches that identify the synergy among electrophysiological, biochemical, and mechanical markers have been proposed as disruptive technologies for next generation solutions to cardiovascular disease.

Commenting on the award, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “The US-Ireland R&D Partnership programme is a unique, cross-jurisdiction initiative, which fosters excellent scientific discovery in each jurisdiction. This award promises significant potential in the pioneering area of cardiovascular biosensors as well as highlighting the benefit of scientific collaboration between researchers on the island of Ireland and across the Atlantic.”

Professor Mark Lawler, Chair in Translational Cancer Genomics, Queen’s University Belfast said: “Queen’s University Belfast has invested heavily in infrastructure and people to address the big data challenges in health. This programme will employ an innovative patient-centered data driven approach that will improve cardiovascular health, but will also have relevance for other diseases.”

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