QUB Academic Affairs are currently advertising scholarships which are listed below. Click on the web links for more information on these.
William and Betty MacQuitty Scholarship (Closing Date: 23 January 2014)
University Travel Scholarships – Emily Sarah Montgomery, Sir Thomas Dixon & First Trust (Closing Date: 29 January 2014)
Alan Graham Fund Travel Scholarship (Closing Date: 29 January 2014)
For more information, contact Academic Affairs | Level 6, Administration Building | Queen's University Belfast | BT7 1NN
E-mail: email@example.com | Tel: 028 9097 3006
Queen’s scientists in €6m bid to find new Cystic Fibrosis treatments
Queen’s University Belfast is a lead partner in a new €6 million (euro) global research programme to develop new ways to treat Cystic Fibrosis.
Affecting more than 10,000 people in the UK, Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is one of the most common life-threatening inherited diseases. Symptoms include repeated chest infections, the major cause of death for patients.
The new global programme, known as CF Matters, aims to develop personalised antibiotic treatments for these chest infections. The work could revolutionise the practice of antibiotic prescription and limit resistance to the drugs globally. The study brings together renowned CF clinicians and scientists from 12 academic institutions and hospitals across Europe and the USA. It is led by University College Cork with Queen’s as a lead partner. It will involve lab-based research and clinical trials with 252 patients in seven countries, including around 40 in Northern Ireland.
Queen’s lead on the study is Professor Stuart Elborn, Director of Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity. An internationally recognised CF expert, he led the original trial for a drug which has now been approved for use by CF patients with the G551D gene mutation or ‘Celtic Gene’. The drug Ivacaftor, also known as Kalydeco, treats the root cause of CF for people with the Gene.
Professor Elborn said: “When patients have a flare-up they are treated with several antibiotics but it isn’t always effective and can lead to antibiotic resistance. In this study we will use molecular next generation DNA sequencing methods to detect all the bacteria present in the sputum of CF patients and use this knowledge to determine what antibiotics should be used in individual patients.
“This personalised antibiotic treatment will be compared with standard therapy for CF patients. We will determine the patient’s immune response to all the different bacteria present in the sputum. Using models of infection we will also discover the effect of these bacteria on lung inflammation and infection. The overall impact will be to determine if all bacteria present contribute significantly to lung infection in CF patients and subsequently identify the most effective antibiotic treatment for patients infected with these bacteria.”
The study will involve a team of scientists from Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity including Professor Cliff Taggart, Dr Rebecca Ingram and Dr Sinéad Weldon and Dr Michael Tunney from the School of Pharmacy. They will collaborate with Dr Damian Downey, Co-Director of the Regional Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. Dr Downey said: “This important collaborative study with our colleagues in Queen’s University will investigate the use of directed antibiotic therapy to treat lung infections. The aim of a more focused treatment plan is to limit the damage that occurs to the lung.”
The CF Matters grant comes just weeks after Queen’s work on managing Bronchiectasis, another chronic lung condition affecting thousands of people in the UK, was published in leading scientific journals. The three papers by Dr Michael Tunney from Queen’s School of Pharmacy and Professor Elborn, address key issues in the management of the condition, including the detection of bacteria that cause lung infection and how long-term antibiotic use to treat Bronchiectasis can result in antibiotic resistance. Commenting on the work, Dr Tunney said: “We found that large numbers of different types of bacteria were present both when bronchiectasis patients were stable, and during a lung infection. The results clearly demonstrate that routine diagnostic techniques do not detect many of these bacteria.
“Further studies are required to better understand the relationship between the presence of the bacteria found in the lungs of Bronchiectasis patients and the severity of the condition. More research is also needed into the effects of long-term antibiotic use and development of antimicrobial resistance.”
For more information on the Centre visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentreforInfectionandImmunity
Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s University Communications Office.
Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5320 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
- Professor Stuart Elborn is available for interview
- Queen’s University has been given €1.36m from the overall grant awarded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme.
- The full trial name is Cystic Fibrosis Microbiome-determined Antibiotic Therapy Trial in Exacerbations: Results Stratified – CF MATTERS
- The study is led by Dr Barry Plant at University College Cork. Research partners include Queen’s University Belfast, Université Parus Descartes (France), University of Dundee (Scotland), University of Washington (USA), University of Heidelberg (Germany), Teagasc Food Research Centre (Ireland), Clininfo SA (France), GABO (Germany), Papworth Hospital (UK), University Hospital Leuven (Belgium), Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris (France).
- The results of the study will be reviewed by an expert panel who will then develop a tailored treatment plan for each patient. The analysis of all the bacteria present will pave the way for more effective therapeutic regimes and ultimately contribute to the development of personalised treatment for CF patients.
The Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society have awarded Danny McAuley the Australian New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) Intensive Care Global Rising Star Programme Fellowship 2013.
“I was delighted to receive the award which acknowledges the work of all the team who are involved with this research programme” Danny McAuley
Danny travelled to the 28th ANZICZ/ACCCN Annual Scientific Meeting held in Hobart Tasmania, Australia in October and gave a presentation title “Developing a New Therapy for Acute Lung Injury: The Potential Role of Simvastatin”. His presentation discussed his programme of work investigating simvastatin as a potential therapy for Acute Lung Injury, a devastating clinical condition in the critically ill.
The Intensive Care Global Rising Star Programme Awards aims to identify promising and innovative clinician/scientists. The recipients will have the opportunity to present an overview of their past and on-going research activities during a dedicated symposium. Only four fellowships were awarded to clinician/scientists from following regions: America (Canada, USA and South America), Europe (including United Kingdom and Ireland) and Asia.
Researchers from Queen’s University are looking for healthy volunteers aged 18-60 years who would be interested in contributing to a research study looking at the normal immune response to infection.
In this study the researchers will identify the “normal range” of results for levels of anti-bacterial proteins and immune cells in blood samples derived from healthy individuals. These ranges will be used as reference values for the detection of defects in the immune system of patients with a condition known as Primary Immunodeficiency.
The study involves volunteers attending the Health Sciences Building for one study visit lasting approximately 30 minutes. During this visit we will collect one 50ml sample (approximately 10 teaspoons) of your blood.
Volunteers should be 18-60 years of age and not have a respiratory condition (for example; asthma) or a history of problems with their immune system. Participants should also be non-smokers and not have taken antibiotics during the three months prior to the study visit.
If you would be interested in taking part, please contact Elinor Johnston for more information, phone 028 90972242 or email email@example.com.
Nuffield Student, Beth Malcomson has been selected as a Queen’s Scholar
Beth was a Nuffield Student in the Centre for Infection & Immunity in the Summer of 2012 with Dr Bettina Schock, who described her as 'an excellent student'. Read a little more about Beth below.
Queen’s scientist to tackle Cystic Fibrosis superbug (October 2013)
Queen’s University Belfast is to lead a £139,000 study into the way cystic fibrosis sufferers are affected by a superbug that destroys lung function.
The research, funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust will investigate how the immune cells of cystic fibrosis patients are infected when they contract Burkholderia Cepacia (B.cepacia). The superbug can colonise in people with cystic fibrosis causing serious lung damage.
The two year study will be coordinated by Professor Miguel Valvano, Chair of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity.
There are around 500 people living with cystic fibrosis in Northern Ireland, and the B.cepacia bug affects around six per cent of people with the illness.
Professor Valvano said: “We have reached a point in which it may be possible to directly identify molecules that can help immune cells,especially those that engulf bacteria to deal with the intracellular B.cepacia. Our research effort will be focused on developing the appropriate procedures that will enable us to screen libraries of chemical compounds to find molecules that can help cystic fibrosis patients’ immune cells clear invading bacteria.”
Professor Valvano aims to develop a better understanding of how cystic fibrosis affects the normal functioning of cells and how B.cepacia disrupts cell breakdown in people with cystic fibrosis. The second stage in the project will involve developing a quick and efficient way of testing large numbers of compounds with a view to finding a drug that can effectively treat B.cepacia.
Dr Janet Allen, Director of Research at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said: “Professor Miguel Valvano is one of the world’s leading experts in this field. His molecular research aimed at dissecting key bacterial components that directly interact with host cells to cause infections is internationally recognised.
“A key part of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s research strategy is supporting research aimed at finding new ways to treat chronic infection and inflammation in people with cystic fibrosis. In people with cystic fibrosis certain bugs are able to turn the body’s immune system against itself by disrupting the normal processes for dealing with invaders and causing harmful levels of inflammation. They are also very difficult to treat because they are able to block conventional antibiotics.”
Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s Communications Office Tel: +44(0)28 9097 5320 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Louise Banks at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust on +44(0)208 290 7912 / +44(0)7989 436 204 or email: email@example.com
Notes to Editors:
- This grant aims to establish how cystic fibrosis affects macrophage cells infected with B. cepacia and to develop associated drug discovery tools. The objective is to enable the development of more effective treatments for B. cepacia and other emerging CF pathogens. Further information about this study can be found at: www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk
- Professor Miguel Valvano was appointed Chair of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Queen’s University Belfast in July 2012. His team, at the Centre for Infection and Immunity (CII) based at Queen’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, explores infections that cause major health risks for children and young adults with cystic fibrosis. For more information visit
- Professor Miguel Valvano leads the world-class team, building on pioneering work at the University of Western Ontario, funded by CF Canada
- A copy of the research strategy is available to download from https://www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk/our-research/our-research-strategy.aspx
- Cystic fibrosis is chronically misunderstood, kills thousands worldwide and is carried unknowingly in the genes of millions. It's often invisible to the naked eye yet destroys lives, stopping them short, inflicting hardship and distress on patients, their families and carers. Cystic fibrosis directly affects around 10,000 people in the UK.
- Fighting it is a battle we must win. That’s why we must keep working for and fundraising for change. That's why we must develop better treatments and, ultimately, a cure.
- Because cystic fibrosis is beatable.
- The faulty gene is carried by over two million people in the UK, most of whom have no idea. If two carriers have children, there’s a one in four chance their child will have the condition, which slowly destroys the lungs and digestive system.
- We’re here to beat it and make a daily difference to the lives of those with cystic fibrosis, and the people who care for them. Find out more at: www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk or call our helpline 0300 373 1000.
Dr Bronagh Blackwood (Cii) and her brother who completed the Belfast Half Marathon Sept 2013
Mr Barney O'Loughlin (Cii) (orange shirt) who completed the Belfast Half Marathon Sept 2013
Congratulations to two members of Cii who completed the Belfast Half Marathon on 22nd September 2013.
Barney ran to collect funds for the Northern Ireland Cancer fund for Children.
Well done Bronagh & Barney!
Cii PhD student, Rebecca Clarke won the John Widdicombe award for the best oral presentation at the 4th American Cough Conference. She was up against strong international competition (14 other presenters!). Well done Rebecca!
Would you like to work in the Centre for Infection and Immunity?
We are recruiting at all levels and are looking for dynamic individuals to join our vibrant Centre.
In the Centre for Infection and Immunity we are currently recruiting as part of a clinical recruitment campaign in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences. We are targeting clinicians who have expertise in respiratory medicine (in either Adult or Peadiatric services).
These clinical disciplines align with strategic scientific programmes within the Centre and we can offer a strong infrastructure which supports translational research.
For more information see the advertisement at http://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/QUBJobVacancies/AcademicOpportunities/MedicineDentistryandBiomedicalSciences/
For post doc level, we advertise current vacancies on www.jobs.ac.uk
12 March 2013
Some press and news links below regarding a breakthrough Cystic Fibrosis drug which has been made available
Listen again: Professor Stuart Elborn explains how a new drug, trialled at Queen’s, will transform the lives of people living with Cystic Fibrosis. Click here to listen to the interview on Good Morning Ulster (scroll to 57mins 30 secs)
A new drug which will benefit Cystic Fibrosis (CF) sufferers with the ‘Celtic Gene’ has been approved for use.
The drug Ivacaftor (also known Kalydeco), will be made available where appropriate, to patients who have the G551D genetic mutation also known as the ‘Celtic Gene’, which is particularly common in Ireland.
Speaking about the new drug, the Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “The drug Ivacaftor is a significant breakthrough, not only for those with the ‘Celtic Gene’, but also for all other CF sufferers, as it indicates that the basic defect in CF can be treated. This is the first drug aimed at the basic defect in CF to show an effect.
“The study found significant improvement in lung function, quality of life and a reduction in disease flare-up for those receiving the new drug treatment. This is an extremely positive decision which means that eligible patients here will, in common with their counterparts elsewhere in the UK, be able to gain access to Ivacaftor.”
There are about 500 people living with CF in Northern Ireland and about 7% of them carry the G551D mutation. CF affects the cells that secrete mucus in the lungs and those that secrete digestive juices in the gut and pancreas, causing these secretions to become thick and cause long term problems. Ivacaftor is the first in a new class of medicines and targets the underlying cause of CF rather than simply treating its symptoms.
Professor Stuart Elborn, Director of Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Infection and Immunity, led the original trial for the drug. Commenting on the Minister’s announcement today, he said: “We led an international team on this study which involved colleagues at Queen’s, the University of Ulster, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and researchers in Europe, USA and Australia, but what the success of this study also illustrates are the benefits that come from collaborative work here in Northern Ireland and the impact of Queen’s research.
“Not only will this breakthrough help patients in Ireland and the UK but it has the potential to change the lives for those with Cystic Fibrosis around the world.”
Medical Research at Queens : Discovery to Recovery : Local Talent, Global Impact
An event was held recently at QUB on 30th January 2013 which comprised of short presentations by four leading medical researchers to impart first-hand knowledge of their ground-breaking work and its impact on patient outcomes locally and globally.
One of the researchers was Professor Danny McAuley who is a Consultant and Professor in Intensive Care Medicine in the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Centre for Infection & Immunity at Queen's University Belfast. He is Director of the Wellcome Trust Wolfson NI Clinical Research Facility and the NI Clinical Trials Unit. He is Co-Director of Research for the UK Intensive Care Society and Chair of the Irish Critical Care Trials Group. His major research area is acute lung injury (ALI).
Congratulations to Professor Stuart Elborn, Director of the Centre for Infection and Immunity, who has been awarded the CBE for services to Healthcare in Northern Ireland.
More information is available at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust press release http://www.cftrust.org.uk/pressoffice/news/elborn_cbe
I+I TRG Young Scientist Symposium 2013
Young researchers throughout Northern Ireland will be coming together on the 22nd February to present their work in the area of infection and immunity. This event has been organised by students and postdocs and aims to encourage collaboration between different institutes.
This one day symposium will include delegate talks and a poster session. There will also be a careers session with invited speakers and a keynote lecture from Prof. Paul Moynagh (NUI, Maynooth).
Abstract deadline for this event has been extended to February 8th2013. If you are interested in attending this event please follow link.
Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast are aiming to help counteract the threat of bioterrorism by undertaking new research to develop a vaccine against anthrax.
Dr Rebecca Ingram from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s is working with scientists from Cardiff University, the Republic of Georgia, Turkey and the USA in a €255,000 NATO funded project to tackle the potential misuse of anthrax. The research project is expected to take three years to complete.
Dr Ingram is based in Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity which, last year, developed the first ever drug to treat the ‘Celtic Gene’ in Cystic Fibrosis sufferers. Speaking about the research, she said: “Currently the majority of the world’s population is susceptible to infection with Bacillus anthracis the bacterium which causes anthrax. The US postal attacks in 2001 highlighted the vulnerability of civilian populations and brought home the need to develop effective, rapid, robust medical countermeasures to combat the threat posed by terrorist use of this organism.
“We at Queen’s will be working with lead investigator Professor Les Baillie from Cardiff University and colleagues in the US, Turkey and Georgia to develop effective vaccines to tackle the problem.
“Within the study we will be testing the antibodies and immune cells from the blood of people who have been exposed to anthrax. Either people known to have been previously infected who live in endemic regions of Turkey and Georgia, or people who have been vaccinated with the licensed UK, US or Georgian vaccines. This research will allow identification of key protective targets for the immune system on the bacteria helping to underpin the development of future vaccines capable of conferring broad-spectrum, rapid, robust protection following minimal dosing.”
Professor Les Baillie from Cardiff University and who leads the multi-national research collaboration said: “It is the growing concern over the threat posed by bioterrorism that has prompted world authorities like NATO through its Science for Peace and Security Programme to support efforts to develop more effective vaccines and medical countermeasures.
“Such vaccines would impact on two levels, locally they would directly improve the lives of workers at risk of contracting anthrax such as farmers in Georgia and Turkey, and globally they would contribute to the protection of citizens from the use of anthrax as an agent of bio-terrorism.”
An additional benefit of this work will be the establishment of a vaccine research centre in Georgia. Scientists from the research institute in Georgia will spend a period of time training at Queen’s in order to learn the cellular immunology techniques required in this project. This capacity building will support infectious disease research and ultimately improve the lives of all of the people in the region.
Dr Denise Fitzgerald
£425K Queen’s study could lead to new treatments for reversing symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
A novel study at Queen’s University Belfast which could eventually lead to new treatments for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has been awarded £425K by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
Currently some 100,000 people in the United Kingdom have MS which affects the ability of nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord and eye, to communicate with each other effectively.
The new study, based in Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity, will investigate how parts of the immune system can help repair the damage caused by MS attacks.
The project is being led by Dr Denise Fitzgerald, who herself experienced a condition similar to MS, called Transverse Myelitis when she was 21. As a result of inflammation in her spinal cord, she was paralysed in less than two hours.
Dr Fitzgerald had to learn to walk again as the damage in her spinal cord repaired itself over the following months and years. It is this natural repair process that often becomes inefficient in MS, a chronic life-long condition, and this failure of repair can lead to permanent disability.
Boosting this natural repair process in the brain and spinal cord is the next frontier in treating MS, as currently there are no drugs that are proven to do so.
Speaking about the importance of the new study, Dr Fitzgerald said: “The central goal of our research is to identify new strategies to treat MS and other inflammatory and demyelinating disorders.
“Nerve cells communicate by sending signals along nerve fibres which are contained within a fatty, insulating, protective substance, known as Myelin. In MS, Myelin is attacked and damaged (demyelination) which can lead to either faulty signalling by nerves, or death of the nerve cells. As a result, patients experience loss of nerve function in the area of the brain/spinal cord that has been damaged. This research project centres around understanding Myelination, a process of insulating the nerve fibres with Myelin, and Remyelination, a natural regenerative process that replaces damaged Myelin.
“We already know that the immune system is implicated as a potential culprit in MS, as the damage is thought to be caused by inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS; brain, spinal cord and optic nerve). But in recent years we have learned a great deal about how the immune system also supports tissue repair in the CNS.
“In particular, there is a group of immune cells called T cells which have recently been shown to support remyelination. There are different subsets of T cells, however, and little is still known about which subsets are beneficial in this process. In our study we aim to discover if these different T cell subsets influence remyelination of the CNS, and if ageing of the T cells impairs remyelination in older individuals.
“The outcomes of this study will include new knowledge of how the immune system, and T cells in particular, influence remyelination in the Central Nervous System. We will also learn a great deal about how ageing affects the ability of T cells to help tissue repair.
“Given the profound neurological impairments that can accompany ageing, and our growing aged population, is it imperative that we understand how normal CNS repair can become impaired with age.
“By understanding this process of CNS repair in detail. we will also gain an insight into other inflammatory and demyelinating disorders.”
Further information on Dr Fitzgerald’s research group within the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s University Belfast can be found online at http://go.qub.ac.uk/FitzgeraldGroup
Media inquiries to Lisa McElroy, Senior Communications Officer. Tel: +44(0)28 90 97 5384 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the Cii team taking part in the NICHS Causeway Trek
Staff and studentsfrom the Centre for Infection and Immunity (plus a few friends) took part in the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Causeway Trek on 12th May 2012.
Well done to the Cii team and their friends, not only did they all make it round the 10 mile walk, they also raised over £1,000 for NICHS.
The 41st Annual Meeting of the European Histamine Research Society, held jointly with COST Action BM0806 in Belfast on 2nd - 5th May 2012
This meeting, organised by Madeleine Ennis, was attended by 130 delegates from 28 countries, including well known European countries (!) such as Argentina, Australia, Japan, United Arab Emirates and USA. Before the meeting, Rob Thurmond of Janssen, San Diego gave a talk in the Centre for Infection and Immunity entitled: “The role of the histamine H4 receptor in allergy and inflammation”, which made many of our local scientists realise that there is life in the old mediator.
The conference covered all aspects of histamine research from synthetic organic chemistry, through immunology, neurobiology to clinical work. There were 7 invited talks, 27 oral presentations and 40 poster presentations. Dr. Tomas Perecko won second prize in the Young Investigator’s award based on the work he had performed with Madeleine Ennis and Karim Dib during a 3 month placement in Belfast.
Overall it was a great success, with comments such as: “Thank you for a wonderful conference and thank you for allowing me to squeeze in a poster on such short notice...I really appreciate all your help. It was a terrific venue and I had a chance to meet and interact with some terrific potential collaborators." (Ed Holson, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard).
Arthritis Research Group Publish Results in Top Rheumatology Journal – June 2011
Dr Sorcha Finnegan, a member of The Arthritis Research Group funded by Arthritis Research UK has recently had her work published in the top international peer-reviewed journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
The group, lead by Dr Madeleine Rooney carry out research into juvenile arthritis. One in every thousand children in the UK are affected by this illness and it can cause chronic pain, joint damage and disability.
In the paper entitled “Synovial membrane immunohistology in early untreated juvenile idiopathic arthritis: differences between clinical subgroups” Dr Finnegan was able to demonstrate that at very early disease stages before the initiation of any disease modifying treatment there were significant immunohistological differences in the synovial tissue between three different subgroups of the disease. The most important finding was that in one of these disease subgroups, known as extended oligoarticular JIA there were early changes in the synovial membrane cell infiltrate that could possibly be used to predict the extension of this disease, this is important as at present there is no reliable way of predicting disease extension in this particular JIA subgroup.
Dr Finnegan was also chosen to present her work at this prestigious international Annual European Congress of Rheumatology in London this year.
Two of the papers authors Dr Sorcha Finnegan and Dr David Gibson, under the guidance of Dr Madeleine Rooney, are carrying out research which involves discovery and validation of biomarkers from synovial fluid and tissue of children with newly diagnosed JIA, with the ultimate aim that these biomarkers will help clinicians to predict which course the disease might take so that appropriate treatments can be given.
The article can be accessed online at http://ard.bmj.com/content/early/2011/06/16/ard.2010.148635.abstract
Please contact Dr Finnegan at email@example.com with any queries
Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Association Conference 2011
Dr. Jeremy Parker (CII, QUB) was awarded the Roger Lowry medal for his presentation at this years NICHSA conference. His presentation covered a recently completed study looking at the role of IL-9 and IL-9 combined with IL-13 (two key cytokines implicated in causing an increase in mucus producing cells and mucus overproduction in asthma) in paediatric well differentiated cultures of bronchial asthmatic epithelium. The findings suggest that the central role attributed to IL-9 in terms of the above characterisitics may not actually be the case. In the study presented, IL-9 was found to have no evident effect on the numbers of goblet cells or mucus production in either normal or asthmatic epithelium. Instead the study suggests a role for IL-9 in the inhibition of differentiation to ciliated cells in the epithelium, another important characteristic of asthma.
PhD Student Wins Award (Feb 2011)
Dr Donal O'Kane has recently won the prestigious Everett C. Fox, MD award for best presentation of laboratory research at the American Academy of Dermatology 69th Annual Meeting in New Orleans, February 2011. He also won the best poster presentation at the meeting. Donal presented his research on 'The role of epithelial to mesenchymal transition in scleroderma'.
Scleroderma is an untreatable progressive fibrotic disease of the skin and often internal organs. Donals results support EMT as a pathogenic mechanism for fibrosis in scleroderma and highlight the SMAD signalling pathway as a key therapeutic target. Donal is currently a 2nd year PhD student supervised by Dr Cecilia O'Kane, Prof Danny McAuley, and Prof Stuart Elborn. His work is funded by the Health and Social Care, Research and Development Division.
A £1.7m cystic fibrosis study is being carried out at Queen's University in Belfast to help improve the quality of life of sufferers.
Read more about it at the link below
Dr. Hani’ah Abdullah a postdoctorial fellow funded by Asthma UK has won the prestigious ‘Michael B.A.Oldstone Neurovirology Lectureship award’ at the USA based ‘International Society for Neurovirology’ (ISNV), held in Milan from 12th -16th October 2010. This was for her oral presentation on work on ‘the effect of virus infection on cough receptors on airway sensory nerves’. This is a collaborative research project with Professor Louise Cosby, Dr. Lorcan McGarvey and Dr. Liam Heaney in the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s. The work has important implications for the understanding of the mechanism of viral induced cough in diseases such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
The presentation was made at the Society Gala dinner. One photograph shows Dr Abdullah (centre) with the president of the ISNV Professor Lynn Pulliam (Professor of Laboratory Medicine, University of California, San Francisco) (right). The second photograph shows Dr. Abdullah (third from left with her engraved plaque) and Professor Louise Cosby (4th from left) along with winners of other awards and their mentors.
Meningitis research breakthrough could save children’s lives
Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have developed a groundbreaking test for meningitis which could help save lives.
A rapid diagnostic test for meningococcal bacteria that can produce results within an hour has been developed by scientists from Queen’s Centre for Infection and Immunity and the Trust. The speed of this new test is a vital factor in the treatment of young children with meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia who become very ill over a short period.
This research has been supported by the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF).
Professor Mike Shields, of Queen’s University and the Belfast Trust, explained: “The first symptoms of meningococcal infections are the same as a simple viral infection, making it difficult to diagnose in the early stages. Parents often use the ‘tumbler test’ on their children’s bodies, but the non-blanching rash that is associated with a positive outcome of this test is a late sign and is not always present in children who have meningitis.
“Currently doctors will admit and treat with antibiotics any child that they suspect of having meningococcal disease while they await the traditional test results that take between 24 and 48 hours. Some children are not diagnosed in the early stages while others are admitted and treated ‘just in case’ when they don’t actually have the disease.
“With the development of a small piece of equipment, which resembles a portable home printer, a sample of blood or a secretion such as saliva, can be tested quickly by the machine. This produces a colour reading that determines if the patient has meningitis or not.”
Alongside saving lives, early detection can potentially improve outcomes for meningitis patients who are often left with life-altering conditions such as deafness and cerebral palsy.
The machine is now being trialled in the A&E Department of the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast.
Professor Shields explained how the breakthrough is a great example of research benefitting patients.
“There is no other rapid test that can confirm the diagnosis in such a short time. The current tests are expensive and take up to two days to obtain. Speedy identification of the cause of infection can enable doctors to make life-saving decisions about the treatment of patients. If we have the results within an hour we will be able to start the appropriate course of treatment right away.”
The new test is very different to standard culture based detection methods that have been used up until now.
Professor Shields: “In recent years molecular diagnostic tests, that use the DNA finger print from ‘bugs’ for diagnosis, have been developed, but they still require the specimen sample to be transported to the laboratory and takes a considerable time to get the result back to the doctor. This means that doctors have to make clinical decisions before results are available.
“The new test called ‘loop mediated isothermal amplification’ also utilises a molecular method to detect genes that are common to all strains on the meningococcus. The real advantage of the new LAMP test is that it has the potential to be a simple bedside test that is rapid, cheap, easy to use and doesn’t require laboratory trained staff.”
Currently there are 1,200 to 1,500 laboratory confirmed cases of meningococcal disease in the UK each year and it is thought that actual numbers could be higher.
The medical team behind this breakthrough was recognised for its work in June of this year when they won an Elevations Diagnostics idea of the year award, organised by HSC innovators, a panel of experts from industry, healthcare and business support organisations.
Media inquiries to Donna McCullough 0044 (0) 28 9097 5391 or 07980013362
Notes to the Editors
Professor Mike Shields is available for interview.
The Research Team:
Professor Shields is Professor of Child Health at Queen’s and Consultant Paediatrician at the Royal Belfast hospital for Sick Children. He is a member of the Centre of Infection & Immunity Research Group and has research interests in childhood respiratory disorders and the rapid diagnosis of infection in children.
Dr Peter Coyle, Head of Virology & Microbiology, Belfast HSC Trust
Dr Derek Fairley, Scientist, Belfast HSC Trust
MRF’s research programme is made possible through charitable donations.
The 2010 recipient of the
lecture award is Prof. James Johnston (CII)
A Web-Cast of his talk is available on the RDS Website at the link below