Fantastic achievements of Lisa Dwane and Lauren Fagan

Dr. Lisa Dwane post doc with Prof. Darran O’Connor’s group, is Irish Cancer Society’s PhD Scholar of the Year 2019. She presenting her research in layman’s terms to compete for the prize at the ICS Research Awards held on Friday 15th February, at the House of Lords, Bank of Ireland College Green, Dublin 2.

Lisa also received the EACR Young Scientist Award, in the Junior category, for her research in cancer research. This Young Scientist award is granted to the two applicants with the highest scoring abstracts. This year, both recipients are RCSI researchers; the second applicant Dr. Sara Charmsaz, Dept. of Surgery, received the Senior award. Awards will be presented at the IACR Annual Conference, on Friday 22nd February, in Belfast.

Lauren Fagan (co-supervised by Dr. Oran Kennedy and Dr. Annie Curtis) was awarded Best Musculoskeletal Research Oral Presentation – Early Researcher Category for her early stage work on the chondrocyte clock and post-traumatic osteoarthritis at the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland Section of Bioengineering 25th Annual Conference (BinI 2019), UL, 18th – 19thJanuary 2019.

MCT Research Forum – Friday 25th January at 3.00pm

Professor David Ray

“Circadian control of inflammation; stories from the lung”

David trained in general internal medicine in North West England, and obtained a PhD from the University of Manchester. He was a research fellow at UCLA for two years, working on neuroendocrine-immune interaction, before returning to the UK, and obtaining a GSK fellowship to work on glucocorticoid action, and sensitivity in inflammatory disease. He was promoted to Professor of Medicine at the University of Manchester in 2005, and went on to study nuclear receptor and circadian biology in inflammation, and energy metabolism. This work attracted Wellcome Investigator and MRC programme grant support. David is a passionate advocate of research training, serving on the MRC clinical fellowship panel for seven years, three as deputy chair.

Circadian mechanisms regulate most mammalian physiology, with particular importance in the regulation of innate immunity, through the macrophage in particular, and energy metabolism, regulating liver, adipose and muscle. These circuits are also regulated by a number of nuclear receptors, which show a striking interdependency on the circadian machinery; some having ligand availability regulated by the clock, others varying in expression level through the day. We have employed a range of approaches to address the physiological importance of the circadian: nuclear receptor system, ranging from population genetics, experimental medicine studies, CRISPR engineered mice, and cell biology. These approaches have discovered how the important dimension of time regulates metabolism, and coordinates diverse tissues to deliver optimal organismal performance. Importantly, we are identifying how external stressors can decouple these systems, with deleterious effects.

Dr. Judith Coppinger

“Increased extracellular vesicles mediate inflammatory signalling in Cystic Fibrosis”

Judith obtained her PhD from Department of Clinical Pharmacology, RCSI in 2004 before undertaking postdoctoral training at the Scripps Research Institute, San Diego, on new folding mechanisms in Cystic Fibrosis. In 2011, she joined the University of California, San Diego as a faculty member before receiving an SFI award and returning to Ireland. In 2013 she became a principal investigator at University College Dublin where she set up basic/translational research programs in Cystic Fibrosis and Cancer (lung/breast). Judith’s overall research has focused on using omics-based approaches to decipher protein interaction networks dysregulated in disease and identify new therapeutics to target these pathways. Her research projects include examining the therapeutic restoration of CFTR using kinase inhibitors in Cystic Fibrosis and examining exosomes in regulating inflammatory signalling in Cystic Fibrosis at the National Children’s Research Centre. Other projects include investigating BAG3 as a therapeutic target regulating signalling transduction pathways in breast/lung cancer subtypes. Dr. Coppinger is a senior lecturer at the RCSI and a principal investigator at National Children’s Research Centre since 2017.

George Timmons

“Mitochondria – A link between innate immunity, metabolism, and the clock”

George Timmons is a PhD student of the Curtis Clock Lab, led by Dr. Annie Curtis and is part of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics and Tissue Engineering Research Group at RCSI. George began his PhD in October 2016 and is now in the 3rd year of his studies. The Curtis Clock Lab focuses on circadian immunometabolism – a new field which looks into the relationship between the molecular clock, cellular metabolism, and immune responses. Specifically, George’s project is investigating how the core clock gene Bmal1 impacts upon mitochondrial metabolism and how these metabolic changes can impact upon the inflammatory response of macrophages.

When: January 25th 2019 at 3.00pm – 4.30pm

Where: Cheyne Lecture Theatre

Tea Coffee and Cookies sponsored by Biosciences will be at 2.30pm

Congratulations to Remsha Afzal!

The Molecular & Computational Biology Symposium 2018 was held at the Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research in University College Dublin (UCD). This symposium is jointly organised annually by UCD PhD students from the Systems Biology and Infection Biology programs.

This event showcased the thriving local research and scientific community that is present at UCD and in Dublin to Irish and international academic researchers as well as industrial companies. It also featured internationally renowned keynote speakers from a wide range of fields within the sphere of computational and molecular biology to present their research.

Remsha Afzal from Dr. Claire McCoy’s lab was selected to be a speaker at this year’s symposium where she won a prize for best presentation for her topic “The role of IL-10 and arginase in immunometabolism”

See more about the symposium at: http://compmolbiosymp.ucd.ie/

PhD student elevator pitch session

Chairs: Thomas Frawley and Orla Fox

Venue: Houston Lecture Theatre

Date: December, 3d 2018

Time: 12.00

Presenters: 

Rebecca Watkin

George Timmons

Aisling Rehill

Hannah Rushe

Remsha Afzal

Conor Duffy

Martin Kenny

Frances Nally

Sean Patmore

James O’Siorain

Shannon Cox

Lauren Fagan

A light lunch will be served after the talks. Sponsored by Biosciences Ltd.

All Welcome!

 

Omics in Disease Diagnosis and Therapy

Our new ‘thematic’ MCT Research Seminar Series was launched on November 8th with the opening talks on ‘Omics in Disease Diagnosis and Therapy’. The aim of the new format, with presentations spanning several research groups and diseases to facilitate knowledge exchange and foster cross-collaboration.

Dr Sudipto Das – Genomic and epigenomic approaches as a vital discovery platform

The talk broadly focused on various genomic and epigenomic platforms that have been established in the lab enabling us to interrogate the various alterations that underpin disease-associated features. Using specific clinical case examples, the talk demonstrated how the whole genome, exome and shallow sequencing have allowed us to further our understanding about atypical clinical presentation of known cancer types. Furthermore, the application of targeted methylation sequencing on FFPE tissue and it’s further utilization to stratify metastatic colorectal and heart failure patients using deep learning approaches was also explained.

Dr Katie Benson – Integrating Genomics into the Clinical Care Pathway

Next-generation sequencing is quickly replacing single gene tests in clinical practice. The integration of these genomic tests has been slow as a result of barriers including data processing and interpretation, handling of incidental findings, storage of data and access to genetics services and clinical geneticists. The Epilepsy Lighthouse project, building on the success of the epilepsy electronic patient record (EPR), has used eHealth technologies to facilitate the integration of genomics results into the epilepsy clinic. This has facilitated multidisciplinary team discussions of patients and their genomics results. As part of this project, we have sequenced 97 adult and paediatric Irish epilepsy patients and successfully provided a genetic diagnosis in 24% of cases.

Dr Chiara DeSanti – MicroRNA function in health and disease

Since the sequencing of the human genome back in 2001, non-coding RNAs have been shown to play a critical role in regulating gene expression at a transcriptional, post-transcriptional and translational level. Among the several classes of non-coding RNAs, our group is interested in microRNAs (miRNAs), small non-coding RNA molecules (18-25 nt in length) firstly discovered in C.elegans as negative regulator of gene expression through binding to the 3’untranslated region (UTR) of a target mRNA and inhibiting its translation and/or leading to mRNA degradation. MiRNAs expression was found altered in all human diseases so far, where they have been proposed as diagnostic/prognostic biomarkers and as key players in the pathogenic process itself due to their pleiotropic ability to bind hundreds of mRNAs simultaneously. Therefore, it’s hugely important to define true miRNAs::mRNAs interactions to understand their biological role and the pathways that they affect, in the overall aim of designing therapeutic strategies to enhance or block miRNAs. In order to do so, online target predictions is usually the first step, but experimental validation is needed to verify the in silico-predicted interaction. Several methods have been developed to address this issue, and they can be indirect (i.e. transcriptomic and proteomic changes are measured after over-expression/depletion of a miRNA), or direct (i.e. miRNA::mRNA complexes are captured and physical interactions are assessed, including the RCSI-developed method called miR-CATCH). Gold standard for the validation of high-throughput screening is the luciferase assay, again routinely used in several laboratories across the College. In our group, we are focussing on the role of miR-155 in macrophage polarisation in the context of multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurodegenerative disease where proinflammatory macrophages infiltrate the central nervous system and promote chronic inflammation and damage to myelin sheath. Our hypothesis, supported by preliminary data by our PI Dr MCoy and other researchers, is that miR-155 is promoting the proinflammatory state in macrophages and therefore blocking it would reduce inflammation and alleviate disease progression. Although proof of concepts for antimiR-155 therapy have been attempted in a mouse model of MS (EAE model), we are hoping to boost its efficacy by improving the delivery to macrophages of more stable versions of antimiR-155 or target-site blockers that minimise off-targets effects.

 

 

 

Well done Dr Mariana Cervantes!

Dr Mariana Cervantes (MCT) was successful in obtaining funding from The National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) from Mexico under the Support for Postdoctoral Researchers Abroad Linked to the Consolidation of Research Groups scheme. This funding will support her postdoctoral research in circadian biology in the Curtis-Clock Lab, under the guidance of Dr Annie Curtis. The grant titled “Impact of circadian control on mitochondrial metabolism in Dendritic Cells and their implications in vaccination” was funded for $48,000 for 2 years. In this project, Dr. Cervantes will unravel the mechanisms by which the molecular clock regulates dendritic cell function with the objective to improve vaccination strategies.

This grant is awarded to Mexican Postdoctoral researchers who wish to carry out high-level research in prestigious universities worldwide.

MCT Scopes Awards at Haematology Association of Ireland Meeting 2018

MCT was well represented at this year’s Haematology Association of Ireland meeting in Cork. A number of PhD students and Post-docs from the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology, has their work selected for presentation at this prestigious annual meeting. Moreover, three of these presentations were awarded prizes;

Presidents Prize: Clive Drakeford, PhD student
Best Scientific Oral Presentation: Dr Sean McCluskey, PostDoc
Best Scientific Poster Presentation: Soracha Ward, PhD student

Soracha Ward (PhD student with Prof. James O’Donnell) presenting her poster

Additionally, two PhD students, Sean Patmore and Aisling Rehill, scored in the top 20% of submitted abstracts and had their work selected for oral presentations at the meeting.

Dr. Sean McCluskey [post doc with Roger Preston] and Clive Drafeford [student with Prof. James O’Donnell]
Congratulations to all involved!

MCT Hosts Intergenerational Day Lab Tour

On Thursday 4 October, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) unit welcomed almost 30 family members of staff to RCSI St Stephen’s Green campus for the first-ever RCSI Intergenerational Day. Throughout the day, the guests had the opportunity to learn about a variety of activities at RCSI. MCT hosted a lab tour where guests were introduced to several MCT Principal Investigators who discussed their work and demonstrated how their research is carried out. Four stations focusing on the themes of Breast Cancer, Novel Cancer Therapies, Multiple Sclerosis and Circadian Rhythm and its Impact on Health were featured, led by Dr Sudipto Das, Dr Maria Morgan, Prof Tracy Robson, Dr Claire McCoy and Dr Annie Curtis. Guests were guided around the labs by the MCT Operations Team John O’Brien, Olwen Foley, Anne Grady, Mary Ledwith and Seamus McDonald. Scientists Stephanie Annett; Gillian Moore; Conor Duffy; Chiara DeSanti; Mariana  Cervantes Silva, Richard Carroll and George Timmons also volunteered on the day.
Prof Gianpiero Cavalleri contributed to the day’s activities with a talk on the Irish DNA Atlas. The MCT research projects presented were a hit with our audience evident by the number of attendees, their level of engagement and thoughtful questions. Guests included relatives of MCT staff including Mr Joseph Tighe father of Orna and Mrs McDonald & Curtis – mothers of Seamus and Annie respectively. Julia Morrow of the EDI unit commented that ‘between the MCT lab visit and Gianpiero’s talk, more than one guest commented they wish they could go back and have a more science-oriented career!’ It’s never too late we say!
Written by Maria Morgan

A new mechanism by which the body clock controls the inflammatory response from macrophages

The Curtis lab from MCT in partnership with the O’Neill lab at Trinity College have revealed insights into how the body clock controls the inflammatory response, which may open up new therapeutic options to treat excess inflammation in conditions such as asthma, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. By understanding how the body clock controls the inflammatory response, we may be able to target these conditions at certain times of the day to have the most benefit. These findings may also shed light on why individuals who experience body clock disruption such as shift workers are more susceptible to these inflammatory conditions.
The body clock, the timing mechanism in each cell in the body, allows the body to anticipate and respond to the 24-hour external environment. Inflammation is normally a protective process that enables the body to clear infection or damage, however, if left unchecked can lead to disease. The new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a leading international multidisciplinary scientific journal.
Dr Annie Curtis, Research Lecturer in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics at RCSI and senior author, explained that: “Macrophages are key immune cells in our bodies which produce this inflammatory response when we are injured or ill. What has become clear in recent years is that these cells react differently depending on the time of day that they face an infection or damage, or when we disrupt the body clock within these cells”.

Some members of the Curtis lab involved in this project: Dr. Richie Carroll (far left), Dr. Annie Curti,  Dr. Mariana Cervantes, George Timmons (far right)

Dr. Jamie Early, the first author on the study, said: “We have made a number of discoveries into the impact of the body clock in macrophages on inflammatory diseases such as asthma and multiple sclerosis. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms by which the body clock precisely controls the inflammatory response were still unclear. Our study shows that the central clock protein, BMAL1 regulates levels of the antioxidant response protein NRF2 to control the inflammatory response from macrophages.
“The findings although at a preliminary stage, offers new insights into the behaviour of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease which are known to be altered by the body clock”, added Dr Early.
Funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the research was undertaken in collaboration between RCSI, Trinity College Dublin and the Broad Institute in Boston, USA.

Here is the  link to the paper titled ” Circadian clock protein BMAL1 regulates IL-1β in macrophages via NRF2

Annie Curtis

RCSI StAR International Summer Internship Programme

This summer RCSI welcomed our very first cohort of ten international students as part of our Inaugural RCSI StAR International Summer Internship Programme. Students came from Washington University, Cornell University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Oregon, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Liverpool and TCD to spend two months in laboratories around RCSI. To mark the end of the programme we held a research symposium where students show-cased their research and experience. It was a huge success, with Kieran White, University of Liverpool winning the overall prize for the best presentation on ‘Nanotherapeutics for Glioblastoma’ (supervisor Professor Annett Byrne). Kieran has already accepted a PhD position with Prof Byrne on her GlioTrain programme. Thanks to Prof Darran O’Connor and Prof Tracy Robson (MCT) for leading this initiative.

We will also be running the StAR summer internship next year – stay tuned. Here is the link to last year’s programme which will be updated within the next month: http://www.rcsi.ie/starugprogramme