Go all the way from Dublin to Vietnam on a bicycle? That would be a ‘Mission Impossible’. But impossible is a word that does not match well with the name of Christina Noble. Her life story was against all odds. And her Children’s Foundation (CNCF) continues to amaze. So it seems an appropriate idea for the CNCF to organize a fundraising cycle event under this motto. And several RCSI employees and members of MCT rose to the challenge!
Saturday, June 8th, just after noon: six stationary bikes in King Street South were awaiting volunteer cyclists. The stakes were high: the Ireland Men’s and Women’s Seven Rugby Squad had spun the wheels, making over 53 km mileage in just half an hour. “Team RCSI” was in good mood to advance the peloton further and get the attention and support from Dubliners and tourists walking by. Taking over four bikes for one hour, we had great fun and a good workout, contributing many more miles and raising some spontaneous donations. Thanks to a generous gift from Niamh Moran, each of us went home not only with the feeling of having made a tiny contribution to a great cause but also with some delicious bread to replenish the burnt carbohydrates.
I would like to use this occasion to say ’Go raibh mile maith agaibh’ to all volunteers and supporters on the day, beforehand and beyond – you are fantastic! It is great that so many colleagues from MCT helped to make this day a success for the CNCF. The raised money will be help to continue the CNCF’s work in the Sunshine Centre in Ho Chi Minh City, providing a loving and caring environment for children that restores their dignity and trust.
For those who missed the opportunity: our Cyclathon fundraising website is still open for another two weeks https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/11377220_team-rcsi.html. And there will be more occasions coming up in the near future. Ingmar Schoen
Dr Olga Piskareva’s team ran the Hot Chocolate Morning on February, 15th. Every year that day, we celebrate the International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD) to raise awareness of childhood cancer, its consequences for children and their parents and make it as a priority for Governments and research.
Olga’s research is focused on neuroblastoma biology. This is a solid tumour of undeveloped nerves. Some forms of neuroblastoma spread quickly and become very aggressive and challenging to treat. Her team is searching for the weaknesses in cancer spread that can be targeted with drugs.
A guessing game was a part of the event. Everyone had a chance to guess how many marshmallows fitted in the cell culture flask T75. The guesses ranged from as low as 95 to as high as 500. Fortunately, one of the participants gave an absolutely correct answer. Micheal Flood put on 173 and won. Her fantastic ability to guess is incredible! Congratulations!!! Well done to all!
Olga’s team raised 698.91 Euros for childhood cancer research! They thank everyone who came along and supported the Hot Chocolate Morning & the International Childhood Cancer Day 2019! They thank Amorino for delicious chocolate & tasty bites contributors!
And the winners are:
1st place – Micheal Flood (173)
2nd place – Rebecca Watkin (175)
3d place – Lisa Dwane (180)
4th place – Billy Cahill (165)
5th place – Martin Kenny (185)
6th place Brona Murphy (160)
During science week 2018 MCT ran its RCSI Lab Safari, an outreach event for 45 students from St Dominic’s College in Ballyfermot. The day provided students with an opportunity to gain an insight into careers in biomedical research and health care and also provide some hands-on experience of the types of skills involved in these careers.
The event was developed to promote careers in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine) to younger, second and third year students, who have yet to choose their leaving cert subjects. Participants experienced a whole day of activities around the scientific method, patient simulations and hands on laboratory demonstrations in the areas of genetics, vascular and musculoskeletal biology. They also had the opportunity to discuss career options with MCT scientists. A video which captures the activities on day is here.
MCT would like to thanks the Students, Staff & Principal of St Dominic’s College, Ballyfermot for their enthusiastic involvement.
RCSI Lab Safari was developed and led by Dr Maria Morgan and Dr Annie Curtis from the Molecular & Cellular Therapeutics Department (MCT) and was funded through the L’Oréal Ambassadors Fund. The initiative was an interdepartmental collaboration with support from staff across RCSI and included: Presentations from Prof. Tracy Robson and Caragh Stapleton; Interviewing by Isabel Amado; Research Lab Experience Leads: Caragh Stapleton, Jamie O’Sullivan’ Oran Kennedy; Simulation & Clinics Skills Event led by Clare Sullivan and Tim Lawler; Research Lab Experience Demonstrators: Katie Benson, Paige Hinton, Lauren Fagan, Isabel Amado, Richie Carroll, Soracha Ward, Hannah Rushe, Clive Drakeford, Sean Patmore, Ed Gilbert, Rob Carton, Ciaran Campbell, Gillian Moore; Professional & Technical Staff: Anne Grady, Mary Ledwith, Seamus McDonald, John O’Brien, Olwen Foley.
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!
We are delighted to have raised €309 for the MS fundraiser on Wednesday 30th May!! Thanks to all who baked and donated cakes for the event. A massive thank you to Bretzel Bakery for all the delicious pastries and sourdough breads and a raffle ticket for Bloom.
In honour of World MS Day on the 30 May 2018; the Molecular and Cellular Department in the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland along with Trinity College Dublin, MS Society Ireland and Novartis have joined together to create an MS Research Network event.
The event will comprise of three parts; the first is a World MS Day Fundraiser located in the main foyer of RCSI between 8.30 – 10 am, please come and support the #bringinguscloser campaign. The second is a Researcher Forum for scientists working on MS in Ireland, with the aim to establish an official researcher network to enhance collaboration, visibility, and congeniality. The third is a Public Event to launch the most recent MS Society report and inform the public of the importance and relevance of MS research that is conducted in Ireland.
All are welcome to these events (see below details). To register for the day event, email Harriet Doig at firstname.lastname@example.org, to register for the evening event, email Emma Kinnane at email@example.com.
Written and organised by Claire McCoy
World MS Day Fundraiser – Royal College of Surgeons, Main Foyer. 8.30 – 10am
Researcher Forum – Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Tutorial Room 2/3
12.00 Meet and Greet (lunch is provided)
12.30 Harriet Doig (MS Society Ireland). ‘The value of a research network in Ireland’
12.40 Claire McCoy (RCSI). ‘The importance of microRNA-155 in Multiple Sclerosis and my contribution to an MS research network’
13.10 Eric Downer (Trinity College Dublin). ‘Exploring Exercise & Cannabinoids as Therapeutic Targets in MS’
13.40 Una Fitzgerald (NUIG). ‘My research and how I can contribute to an MS research network’
14.15 Tea Break
14.45 Jill Moffat (Queen’s University Belfast). ‘The Northern Ireland MS network – challenges and opportunities’
15.00 Denise Fitzgerald (Queen’s University Belfast) ‘My Research and how the Northern Ireland MS network benefits it’
15.30 Mary Fitzsimons (Beaumont Hospital). ‘How to build an MS electronic patient record, lessons from the epilepsy lighthouse project’
15.45 Alexis Donnelly (Patient advocate). ‘How patients can help build MS research’
Public Event – Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College Dublin
18.00 MS Society Report Launch
18.20 Clinician – Orla Hardiman (Beaumont Hospital and Trinity College Dublin)
18.40 Researcher – Claire McCoy (RCSI)
19.00 Patient Advocate – Joan Jordan (Patient Advocate)
On Friday, March 23rd, MCT and the Department of Physiology hosted a Spinathon for Daffodil Day, the Irish Cancer Society’s biggest fundraising day of the year. The aim of the Spinathon was to cycle the same distance as the Ring of Kerry, a total of 170 km on each bike. A number of willing participants took part on the day, including Sudipto, Lisa, George and Tony from MCT. A total of €1966 between the JustGiving.ie fundraising page and bucket collections on the day.
The day began with myself (in the middle of the pic) and Brian O’Mahony (the CEO of the IHS) appearing on Ireland AM to speak about the development of Haemophilia care in Ireland over the last 50 years.
The celebrations continued with the revealing of a street art project reflecting the personal experience of patients and nurses from St James’s Hospital. The visual, commissioned by the Irish Haemophilia Society in partnership with Roche, was developed by artist Shane O’Malley and unveiled on Machen street and in St. James’s Hospital to coincide with World Haemophilia Week.
Brian O’Mahony and Dr. Michelle Lavin spoke at the Shire office about personalised treatment as well as the challenges that still need to be addressed to further our understanding of Haemophilia.
The Day concluded with the “light it up red” light show, a long list of landmarks including RCSI, Edinburgh castle and the convention Centre were among landmarks worldwide which were lit up red for the night.
I have had an immense passion for science since I began my secondary school journey, which would be five years ago, now! I became engrossed in the subject, and intrigued in all there was to learn from it. I knew it was what I wanted to pursue as a career and that it would be a major part of my future. I couldn’t be more eager to continue on my path of science and see what it has to bring.
So, as you can imagine, when I received word of a lab safari experience in RCSI, I was ecstatic and jumped at the chance to improve my knowledge in the field of molecular and cellular therapeutics, meet new people, both those with a similar ardent spirit of science and interest in the field like myself and those who have incredible stories to share of their journeys in the field. I was also especially keen to get a glimpse of the college itself, as it is a college that really stood out to me, as a lover of science and I have followed its successes and path for years now.
Arriving outside RCSI with my mother, I was filled with joy and overwhelming adrenaline as I was about to enter the college. Upon our entrance, we were shown to a room where we received our introduction talks. We first met Tracy Robson who spoke of her role as head of the department of molecular and cellular therapeutics in RCSI and her inspirational path into the area of science and focuses on the research of cancer. Her talk had to be my most enjoyable part of the whole experience as she expressed that passion for the field is what got her to where she is today, and also going out and discovering opportunities and having the courage to ask questions. It gave me motivation and encouraged me to take all opportunities that may come my way, which will benefit me as I begin my adventure into the scientific world!
We were then introduced to Avril Hutch, head of equality and diversity at RCSI. We did an exercise in which we were shown pictures of workers in the science field and we had to guess which profession they held. It gave us a glimpse at the topic of unconscious bias, particularly in science, and as a female in science myself I greatly respected her and her focus on equality in RCSI.
After being divided into our groups, we put our goggles and lab coats on and began our safari. We firstly arrived at the station of Claire McCoy who informed us of her work, targeting miR-155 activity in macrophages to promote an anti-inflammatory function for multiple sclerosis. The work she does is fascinating and it captured my attention as she explained. She was extremely polite and helpful and all questions I had, she was more than delighted to answer.
Then, moving on we met a team who thought us all about genetics, we even got to do experiments to determine what genetic traits we had ourselves and compare within our group, which I tremendously enjoyed. Lastly, we greeted Olga and John who explained the research in biomarkers for neuroblastoma. It was an extremely gripping topic to learn about and after that sadly, it was time to leave the labs.
Following the tour of the labs, fun experiments completed and brains full of new, amazing knowledge we all received certificates and colouring books of the brain, which I absolutely loved!
Overall the experience was so special to me and every bit of it was wonderful. I feel like I’ve learned so much and can use my new-found knowledge along with my journey in science. I would like to thank RCSI for holding such an event because it is greatly appreciated by those who want to adventure it to the scientific field and those who are unsure, and I hope there will be many more like it in the future. After this whole experience, I am even more certain and passionate about working in the world of science!
On November 14th, we welcomed almost 50 secondary school students at our Department for Lab Safari. The event was designed to encourage young people to consider a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine through hands-on experience and demonstrations prepared by our researchers. We developed 6 different workstations focused on Cancer biology and biomarkers, Drug Discovery, Multiple Sclerosis, Human Genetics and Immunology/Body clock
The event was opened by Prof. Tracy Robson, Head of MCT, sharing her career path in research and lessons that she learnt. Dr Avril Hutch, Head of RSCI Equality and Diversity Unit, also spoke about stereotypes in STEMM careers and having an awareness of unconscious bias.
Our workstation was led by Caragh Stapleton, Katherine Benson and Edmund Gilbert, centered around human genetics. Our activity set out to teach participants about inherited traits and demonstrate how variation in our DNA influences our physical attributes. We investigated a number of traits including PTC taster (using PTC taste strips), colour blindness, widows peak, tongue rolling, attached earlobes, bent little finger, eye colour and red hair. Each participant noted whether or not they had the given trait and we then discussed the hypotheses of the genetic variants influencing the different traits.
Our workstation was led by Olga Piskareva and John Nolan. We explained the concept of biomarkers and the importance of discovering novel biomarkers for neuroblastoma, a childhood malignancy. Various chromosomal aberrations can be biomarkers of neuroblastoma aggressiveness. One of the strongest predictors of rapid neuroblastoma progression is MYCN status. We selected several neuroblastoma cell lines with known MYCN status providing a good illustration of biomarker’s quantity. Using immunodetection, we visualised the differences in the MYCN presence.
Our workstation was led by Annie Curtis, Mariana Patricia Cervantes Silva, George Timmons and Cathy Wyse. The theme of our activity was on the body clock and immune function. We discussed with the students why they get jet lag and what that has to do with their body clock. Students then moved to the first station where they got a chance to add colouring to macrophages, so we had red, yellow, blue and green macrophages and were able to look at their coloured macrophages under a microscope. Then they moved to the next station where they got to see the master clock which resides in the hypothalamus of the brain under a microscope. Finally, we displayed some images of activated macrophages and explained their function.
Cancer Cell Biology
Our workstation lead by Sudipto Das, Gillian Moore and Stephanie Annett, focused on showcasing the various laboratory-based approaches applied regularly to identify and investigate novel gene or protein-based biomarkers of cancer progression. Within our workstation, we highlighted three key areas including how samples following biopsy from a cancer patient are used to construct tissue microarrays which are used for assessing the importance of a certain protein in cancer. This was followed by demonstrating a particular tissue culture-based method used to study anti-cancer properties of drugs and finally displaying an array of microscopic images of blood vessels developing in a given tumour.
Our workstation was led by Claire McCoy, Remsha Afzal and Conor Duffy. The research focus at our lab safari station was Multiple Sclerosis (MS). We explained how the causes of MS are unknown, but that it is characterised by an influx of immune cells into the brain and spinal cord. Our research aims to investigate one type of immune cell called the macrophage. We aim to understand the damage macrophages cause in MS and if we can reverse this to provide an alternative tool for MS therapeutics. We really enjoyed explaining our research at the Lab Safari, where we showed students how MS impacts on brain function and showed them examples of activated macrophages under the microscope.
Our workstation was led by Dermot Cox and Padraig Norton. Students were given a brief history of drug discovery. Then they were introduced to the basic concepts of how a drug binds to its target and the different ways in which a drug can bind. Students were then shown a demonstration of molecular docking on a computer whereby a small molecule, or drug candidate, was virtually docked into a target binding site using the software.
The event was led by Dr Maria Morgan, Anne Grady, Prof. Tracy Robson, Dr Olga Piskareva and John O’Brien. Guides on the evening included Olwen Foley, Camille Hurley, Mary Ledwith, Seamus McDonald and Shane O’Grady.