NUI Galway researcher awarded €100,000 to help fix damaged hearts

8 Jun 2016

A researcher at the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway has bagged €100,000 to help further her work into developing a treatment that could help patients with post-heart-attack scarring or tissue damage.

NUI Galway researcher Dr Ellen Roche was the recipient of this significant funding from the SFI/HRB/Wellcome Trust Biomedical Partnership, with her research having the aim of drastically improving the lifespan of patients after they have suffered a serious cardiac event like a heart attack.

Despite major medical advances allowing better treatment of heart attacks in recent years, there remain issues where scar tissue can remain that could one day contribute to total heart failure.

Future Human

Selective therapy device

Typically, this remaining tissue is treated with a drug cocktail that can have toxic side effects on the human body, which makes the recovery process difficult for the patient.

However, the work that Roche is undertaking aims to make the entire process much safer, with a device that acts as a reservoir to allow direct, selective delivery of therapy along with multiple refills to the heart from a port just under the skin.

With this new funding, the project’s immediate aim will be to develop a computer-based model using mathematical techniques, which could predict how the therapy will be dispersed from the implantable device to the heart tissue.

It’s also hoped that this device will reveal greater insights into the rate of drug delivery to the damaged tissue, in order to help to design the best treatment strategy.

Heart breakthroughs left and right

Speaking about her research, Roche said: “This device will also reveal some more fundamental insights into the rate of drug delivery to the tissue, in order to help to design the best treatment strategy.”

This marks quite a successful month for the western university, which announced recently that it had made a major breakthrough with regard to stem cell research and its treatment for heart conditions.

In what was the first case in Ireland of synchronised beating heart cells being created from human pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, the NUI Galway team was able to harness stem cells to generate patient-specific heart tissue in a dish for the treatment of heart disease and sudden death in young children.

Heart tissue image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic