Friday, 29 April 2016

Study Finds That a Compromised Immune System after Major Surgery can Lead to Post-Surgical Mortality

NUI Galway research study discovers the partial or complete suppression of an individual’s immune system following major surgery can lead to post-surgical mortality Scientists at NUI Galway completed a research study which has revealed that post-traumatic immunosuppression (PTI) is one of the leading causes of post-surgical mortality and makes patients vulnerable to hospital-acquired infections, multiple organ failure and many other complications. The study was published today (29 April) in the international journal Clinical & Translational Immunology by Nature Publishing Group. Lead author of the study, Professor Rhodri Ceredig, Director of the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science at NUI Galway, said: “An evolutionarily sophisticated and balanced immune system exists in our body whose equilibrium can be altered by different physical, environmental or psychological stresses. Trauma, including major surgery and accidental injury, leads to post-traumatic immunosuppression (PTI) increasing a patient’s vulnerability to hospital-acquired infections. Florence Nightingale initially raised this question during the Crimean War and great efforts were then made to improve hospital hygiene. Although sanitation has been improved in hospitals, an equivalent phenomenon of post-traumatic deaths from systemic infections persists to this day. ” Professor Ceredig added, “More and more new infections are still threatening major trauma patients. An important question remains, ‘why do wounded patients acquire systemic infections even in a hygienic environment?’ Research over the past two decades suggests that following trauma, a patient’s immune system is imbalanced, thereby increasing their vulnerability to acquired infections. However, the underlying mechanisms of PTI are poorly defined and as yet, there are no universally accepted treatments. Our study, carried out by Dr Md. Nahidul Islam at NUI Galway in collaboration with Professor Benjamin Bradley of the University of Bristol, used total knee replacement surgery as a model of sterile surgical trauma.” At sites of tissue damage, whether it be following major surgery or accidental injury, many bioactive molecules are produced. These molecules include so-called ‘danger’ signals expressed by damaged cells that in turn stimulate production by local, undamaged, cells of very potent, soluble hormone-like molecules. Some of these molecules dampen, whereas others stimulate inflammation. It is thought the overall purpose of these early local events is to create an environment favourable to tissue healing. However, some of the molecules produced locally enter the blood stream and have effects on distant organs such as the liver, brain and organs of the immune system. The overall effect of these is to dampen immune responses thereby rendering the patient more susceptible to oportunistic infections. The origin of such infections can be either external or internal, for example from an imbalance of gut bacteria or failure of the body to control low-grade infection. In some respects, the profile of bioactive molecules circulating in the blood following sterile surgical intervention can resemble that seen in the early stages of serious bacteriological infections. Hospital-acquired infections and their treatments pose a huge economic burden on healthcare services and are a cause of serious morbidity and even mortality. One key finding of this study was that additional research is necessary in order to be able to distinguish immunosuppression following sterile trauma from that seen in the early stages of non-sterile infection, thereby providing guidelines for the initiation of appropriate treatments. This study was supported by Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council and North Bristol NHS Trust. To read the full study in Clinical & Translational Immunology visit: ENDS

News Archive

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

NUI Galway to host workshops for teenagers based on the perception of art and science and exposing the idea that both are not mutually exclusive The outreach team from the Department of Chemistry in NUI Galway, funded by EXPLORE Innovation Initiative will host free workshops entitled ‘Explore Science in Art’ on the University campus over three separate days in April and May. The workshops will gauge the perception of art and science among secondary school students aged 14-18 years and will blur the boundaries between art and science by showing the scientific method and principles involved in art and the creativity required in science. The practical workshops will consist of three parts: Chemically synthesise pigments for paintings as they were made hundreds of years ago and use them to create artwork. Making and using fabric dyes. Create your very own masterpiece. On Friday, 6 May the School of Chemistry will host two free talks entitled ‘Talks @ Explore Science in Art’ linking two disciplines that are generally considered unrelated, exposing the idea that science and art are not mutually exclusive. A conservation scientist will talk about how science helps us better understand art while a scientist will discuss how understanding art and being creative helps science! The first talk ‘From Art to Science and back again...’ by Dr Peter Crowley from the School of Chemistry at NUI Galway will take place at 5pm on Friday, 6 May. The second talk entitled, ‘Lapis & Gold: looking at manuscripts through the eyes of a Conservator’, by Ms Kristine Rose Beers from the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, will take place at 5.30pm. Both talks will take place in the Anderson Lecture Theatre in the Arts Science Building at NUI Galway. On Monday, 9 May the ‘Talks @ Explore Science in Art’ will continue with the man who made Yoda himself - on how science helps us understand art better. Dr Spike Bucklow from Hamilton-Kerr Institute at the University of Cambridge will discuss ‘Can science help you understand art better?’ The talk will take place from 5.30pm to 6.30pm in the Anderson Lecture Theatre in the Arts and Science Building at NUI Galway. Saturday, 30 April workshops will take place in the Chemistry Teaching Labs in the Arts Science Building at NUI Galway. For registration and further information visit: The talks on Friday, 6 May will take place from 5pm to 6.30pm in the Anderson Lecture Theatre in the Arts Science Building at NUI Galway. For registration and further information visit: For registration and further information on Friday, May 9 talks, visit: ENDS

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

NUI Galway in partnership with Mindfulness Ireland and Plum Village, Bordeaux is delighted to announce a free public event ‘An Evening of Mindfulness’ NUI Galway is delighted to host a very special event entitled ‘An Evening of Mindfulness’ in association with Mindfulness Ireland, exploring the practice of Mindfulness. The free event is open to the public and will take place on Thursday, 28 April from 6pm to 8pm in the Aula Maxima Lower at NUI Galway. The Mindfulness session will be presented by Teacher Sister Jina, and her colleagues Sr Tri Nghiem and Sr Tao Nghiem from Plum Village in Bordeaux. Sister Jina is a Senior Dharma Teacher within the Plum Village Mindfulness tradition and lives her daily life practicing mindfulness and leading mindfulness retreats around the world. In the hectic lives we lead it is very easy to get caught up in the day to day eventualities. Between going over what happened yesterday to worrying about and planning for tomorrow we can sometimes forget about enjoying today. The practice of mindfulness is about being present and awake to each moment of our daily lives. It will give people the opportunity to look at ways in which we can improve the quality of our lives and that of those around us by listening deeply, building community and paying attention to how we live. Plum Village, near Bordeaux in southwest France, is the largest international practice centre in the Plum Village tradition, and the first monastic community founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered around the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment - the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world. This unique event is part of NUI Galway’s ongoing initiative towards integrating mindfulness into the University’s culture and the importance of mindfulness in higher educational institutions and the wider community. The event is open to all university staff and students, the general public, researchers, student counsellors and advisors, healthcare professionals, mindfulness practitioners, and anyone with an interest in mindfulness. Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research at NUI Galway and coordinator of the University’s Mindful Way initiative said: “NUI Galway is on a journey to adopt a mindfulness culture to benefit both staff and students that is being shared with the wider Galway community. We are honoured to host Sr Jina and her monastic colleagues from Plum Village and hope that everyone who attends will enjoy this truly unique evening with such a globally revered group.” The Plum Village Monastics are in Galway as part of Mindfulness Ireland's Annual Retreat Programme, which takes place every year over the May Bank Holiday weekend. For more information visit and To register attendance please contact Martina Finn on or 087 2201972. For more information regarding NUI Galway’s Mindful Way visit: ENDS

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Breast Cancer Now-funded research aims to determine why one third of breast cancer patients treated with anti-estrogen therapies relapse within 15 years Monday, 25 April, 2016: Scientists at NUI Galway have completed a research study funded by Breast Cancer Now that has begun to unravel why women with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer develop a resistance to endocrine treatment, and have found a potential new approach to overcome the problem. Such findings may pave the way for new therapies to treat breast cancers resistant to endocrine therapy. The study was published today (April 25) in the international journal Oncogene by Nature Publishing Group. A cancer is called estrogen-receptor-positive if it has receptors for estrogen. This suggests that the cancer cells, like normal breast cells, may receive signals from estrogen that could promote their growth. Every woman has estrogen and progesterone hormones in her body, which can serve as fuel for some types of breast cancer. They help the cells grow and spread. Hormone therapy, also called endocrine therapy, adds, blocks, or removes those chemicals to treat the disease. Approximately 70% of breast cancers are positive for estrogen receptor and are treated with hormonal therapy. However, one third of breast cancer patients treated with hormonal therapy relapse within 15 years, which is why it is so important that this research continues, to help determine how the cancer finds ways to survive in these patients. The research was performed by a team of scientists and clinicians led by Dr Sanjeev Gupta at the Lambe Institute for Translational Research at NUI Galway and lead author of the study, Dr Ananya Gupta, Lecturer of Physiology at the School of Medicine in NUI Galway. XBP1 is a protein that is involved in a cell’s response to stressful conditions, which allows tumours to grow and survive when they are deprived of nutrients. Dr Sanjeev Gupta and his team found that XBP1 increases the production of the protein, NCOA3 that enables the breast cancer cells to avoid anti-estrogen treatment. This indicated that combining standard hormonal therapies with a XBP1 inhibitor (this blocks the XBP1 function), could improve treatment of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer patients by preventing relapse due to therapy resistance. Dr Sanjeev Gupta, who has been working on XBP1 since 2007 says that: “This research could lead to better approaches to predict an individual patients responsiveness to endocrine therapies.” Analysing human patient specimens, Dr Gupta and his team found that testing for high levels of XBP1 and the protein NCOA3, could predict whose breast cancer is likely to be resistant to anti-estrogen drugs and which patients could benefit most from combined treatment with hormonal therapies and a XBP1 inhibitor. The findings suggest that resistance to anti-estrogen treatment could be overcome by targeting the cancer cells with a XBP1 inhibitor, using the cell’s reliance on XBP1 as their Achilles heel. Dr Ananya Gupta from NUI Galway and lead author of the research said: “The next step is to identify a suitable therapeutic target in the XBP1-NCOA3 pathway. XBP1 is a transcription factor, and transcription factors have been very difficult to target with small molecules. We look forward to developing new ways to target this molecule in breast cancer.” Dr Richard Berks, Senior Research Communications Officer at Breast Cancer Now, said: “This study reveals how the XBP1 protein could be helping some breast cancers survive anti-hormone treatments. We look forward to further research to find out whether blocking this protein could reduce the risk of a patient’s breast cancer spreading or returning, ultimately helping to stop women dying from the disease. It’s crucial that we continue to find ways to make breast cancer therapies even more effective, and match individual patients with the treatments most likely to work for them.” The study was led by NUI Galway and co-authors included Michael Kerin, Professor of Surgery at NUI Galway and Galway University Hospital (GUH) and Director of Breast Cancer Research; and Grace Callagy,  Professor of Pathology at NUI Galway and GUH. The research was funded by Breast Cancer Now, the UK’s largest breast cancer charity, created by the merger of Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Campaign. To read the full study in Oncogene visit:  ENDS

Events Calendar

Upcoming Events Time / Date Location
Explore science in art - workshop 13.30 Saturday,
30 April 2016
Teaching labs
A University in War & Revolution / Ollscoil in am Comhraic, 1923-1919 Monday,
2 May 2016
Hardiman Research Building
Disability Legal Information Clinic 18.00 Wednesday,
4 May 2016
Institute for Lifecourse and Society
Exercise 4 Health 12.00 Thursday,
5 May 2016
Kingfisher Club
Whitaker Seminar: Using Collective Intelligence to collate conversations about the barriers to teaching 12-19 year olds about the Ocean in Ireland 13.00 Thursday,
5 May 2016
CA110, Cairnes Building
Book Launch and Public Lecture:What we preserve from the past and what we ignore: some new perspectives on women in Ireland in the 1950s and 60s 17.00 Thursday,
5 May 2016
The Hardiman Research Building, G011 Seminar Room
Legal and Political Theory Workshop: Yaniv Roznai (The Minerva Centre for the Rule of Law Under Extreme Conditions, University of Haifa) - ʻUnconstitutional Constitutional Amendmentsʻ 12.30 Friday,
6 May 2016
THB-G010 Moore Institute Seminar, James Hardiman Building
Biophysics meets chromatin: Does phase separation regulate heterochromatin formation and function? 13.00 Friday,
6 May 2016
Biomedical Sciences Seminar Room

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