CURRENT RESEARCHERS

IMG_9785.jpg Dr. Eoin Parle (Post Doc)

Eoin holds a degree and a PhD in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering from Trinity College Dublin. His doctorate thesis focussed on investigating the mechanical properties of insect cuticle. Eoin examined various mechanical properties such as fatigue, self-repair and recovery from injury. He also examined evolutionary adaptations seen across the insect kingdom, and how the material grows and matures over the life of the insect. A variety of factors were identified as influencing properties such as strength, stiffness, form, geometry and failure mode.

Eoin went on to his first postdoctoral fellowship in UCD, using his experience in materials classification to examine super-hard materials such as PCD (polycrystalline diamond) and PCBN (Polycrystalline Cubic Boron-Nitride) used in the deep sea drilling and heavy manufacturing industries.

Eoin was awarded a 2-year IRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (Government of Ireland) with Prof. McNamara’s group (beginning in September 2016) undertaking preclinical multiscale experimental and computational investigations into bone mechanics to understand bone fracture during osteoporosis. Eoin is employing a variety of techniques to examine the structure and composition of healthy and osteoporotic bone with a view to developing a predictive tool for assessing fracture risk.

Jessica SCHIAVI photo d'identité Dr. Jessica Schiavi (Post Doc)

Bone and cartilage tissue are bearing daily loads and the body. Throughout the life-time, they are altered. Her aim is to contribute to research with a nearby clinical application. During her thesis, her  research focus was on the build-up of a stratified scaffold based on alginate laden with human mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow. The objective was to develop an original strategy to repair defect in the full depth of articular cartilage up to the sub-chondral bone and checked the mechanical behaviour of the scaffold to be secure to have one with suitable strength for articular cartilage defects.

Bone and cartilage tissue are bearing daily loads and the body. Throughout the life-time, they are altered. My aim is to contribute to research with a nearby clinical application. During her thesis, her  research focus was on the build-up of a stratified scaffold based on alginate laden with human mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow. The objective was to develop an original strategy to repair defect in the full depth of articular cartilage up to the sub-chondral bone and checked the mechanical behaviour of the scaffold to be secure to have one with suitable strength for articular cartilage defects.

During her first post-doc, the goal was to used nano- or microfibrous scaffolds (approved by the FDA) to fill bone and osteochondral defects to accelerate the tissue regeneration by adsorbing growth factors and/or seeding human mesenchymal stem cells on the biomaterial.

Now, she is  working on bone mechanobiology in the specific way of osteoporosis. This disease will affect quite the half of women in their life with an increasing after menopausal. The aim is to make the link between the mechanical behaviour of bone compartments at different scales and biological pathway already know to have links with cell sensing capacity. Finally, we could found how to prevent osteoporosis with already know pharmaceutical drugs.

9 Dr. Vishwa Deepak (Post Doc)

Dr V. Deepak holds a doctorate in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from Northeast Normal University, China. He received a PhD fellowship jointly awarded by the Ministry of HRD, Government of India and the Government of China under a bilateral exchange programme. Dr Deepak recently joined Prof. McNamara’s research group after completing his Postdoctoral research at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He received Vice Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research fellowship at the University of Pretoria.

During his PhD, Dr Deepak’s research focused on osteoblast differentiation induced by the master transcription factor RUNX2 and the epigenetic mechanisms underlying the transcriptional control of osteoblast differentiation. During his recent postdoctoral research work at the University of Pretoria, Dr Deepak worked on the discovery of novel plant-derived small molecules with potent inhibitory effects against osteoclast formation.

Dr Deepak in collaboration with Prof McNamara at the National University of Ireland-Galway further wants to explore the novel and intricate mechanisms involved in the mechanosensing and mechanotransduction pathways regulated by osteocytes in bone. He intends to understand, characterise and exploit these pathways as a therapeutic target against osteolytic diseases such as osteoporosis by employing in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo models.

5 Hollie Allison (PhD)

Originally from the United Kingdom, Hollie graduated from The University of Sheffield with a First class degree in Biomedical Science. She is a recent addition to Prof. McNamara’s research group. Her research is looking at mechanobiology based approaches for the treatment of osteoporosis.

Hollie’s research will aim to test whether targeting mechanobiological responses of osteoblasts can provide effective treatments for bone loss during osteoporosis. It will involve modulating mechanoreceptors and key mechanotransduction proteins in bone cells from normal and osteoporotic human and animal tissue using in vitro cell culture e.g. MSC’s and primary osteoblast cells. Her research seeks to also modulate mechanotransduction responses in vivo for preventing bone loss, bone tissue composition and fracture in osteoporosis.

8 Irene Simfia (PhD)

Irene Simfia is a PhD researcher in McNamara group. She completed her Bachelors (Honors) in Biomedical Engineering from National University of Ireland in Galway (2014).  At Purdue her Engineering Projects in Community Services (EPICS) project was awarded a Corcoran Award 2013 for “excellence in human-centred design”. Just prior to starting her PhD, Irene was actively involved in a five- month project on Deep Vein Thrombosis Device in National University of Ireland Galway. She was involved in much of the lab work on designing, optimising and testing the device. Irene is one of the IRC award holders in the group. She is currently in second year of her PhD.

The overall objective of her research is to investigate whether a therapeutic approach that targets the mechanobiological responses of bone cells can provide an effective treatment for bone loss during osteoporosis. Specifically focus is on targetting the Rho/ROCK signalling pathway in estrogen deficient bone cells in vitro to establish changes in cell proliferation, differentiation, gene expression and actin cytoskeleton when these cells are mechanically stimulated.

4 Ivor Geoghegan (PhD)

Ivor Geoghegan was awarded a Science degree from NUI Galway in 2011. He worked for two years in the medical device sector (Lake Region Medical) before returning to NUI Galway to complete the MSc in Biomedical Science at NUI Galway. He is undertaking a PhD in Biomedical Engineering entitled “Investigations into bone and cartilage cell mechanosensory mechanisms” under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara in the Mechanobiology Research Group in the Discipline of Biomedical Engineering and in collaboration with Dr. David Hoey at Trinity College Dublin.

Project:

Ivor is now undertaking a PhD in Biomedical Engineering entitled “Investigations into bone and cartilage cell mechanosensory mechanisms” under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara. This project involves the characterisation of mechanosensory mechanisms and mechanobiological responses of bone cells derived from healthy and diseased tissues. These studies will involve bioreactor studies, in vitro cell and tissue culture, histology and biological analysis (immunohistochemistry, RT-PCR) to measure mechanotransduction responses. A particular focus will be to delineate whether changes in mechanosensitive organelles occur during bone diseases, and identify changes in the biochemical signal transduction pathways in response to mechanical loading in diseased tissues. Such information will inform therapeutic interventions that modulate the mechanotransduction process e.g. alter extracellular matrix molecules, mechanoreceptors, cytoskeletal structures or biochemical signalling, and may provide an effective therapy for bone diseases. This research will also inform the use of medical device interventions that disrupt the in vivo mechanical environment.

6 Laura O Sullivan  (PhD)

Laura O’Sullivan graduated from NUI Galway in 2015, with a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. During her undergraduate studies, she was awarded the opportunity to work for 17 months (2013-2014) with DePuy Synthes Spine in Switzerland, where she designed, developed and tested various spinal medical devices. In September 2015, she began her Ph.D, as part of Prof. Laoise McNamara’s research team for the Science Foundation Ireland funded Mechanobiology project.

Laura’s PhD research will establish the effectiveness of modulating the mechanotransduction response for preventing bone loss and fracture in an animal model of osteoporosis using micro-CT scanning, tissue composition characterisation, and mechanical characterization on bone tissue.

myles Myles McGarrigle (PhD)

Myles joined the group as a post-graduate researcher in September 2012 after receiving his Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) from the National University of Ireland, Galway. His Phd project focuses on the effects of extracellular mechanics on osteocyte differentiation in vitro.  He is designing  a novel tissue engineering bioreactor that can generate both cellular level stresses and mechanical stimulation regimes that are comparable to those experienced in vivo.

Project Description:

Osteocyte cells play a vital role in maintaining bone health by monitoring physical cues arising during load-bearing activity. Traditional bone tissue engineering (TE) approaches involve seeding bone cells onto 3D scaffolds of different pore size and stiffness. However, previous studies have not reported significant osteocyte differentiation within bone TE constructs. Recently it has been demonstrated that extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffness and cell density can regulate osteoblast differentiation in two dimensional (2D) environments. However, in vivo osteocytes reside in a three dimensional (3D) network within the ECM and it is not yet known whether osteoblast-osteocyte differentiation within a 3D matrix can be induced by the control of matrix stiffness and intercellular separation. A TE strategy that recreates the physical nature of the ECM and determines the optimal cell separation distance within this environment might provide an effective approach to develop bone constructs with an osteocyte network in place. In addition, constructs through bioreactor culture systems.

ORLA Orla McGee (PhD)

Orla is a graduate of NUI Galway (2014), who received a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. During her degree Orla received a scholarship to spend her 3rd year studying at Purdue University in the United States. Orla also undertook two international placements in the summers of 2012 and 2013 at Hollister Inc. in Libertyville, IL and at Fort Wayne Metals Ltd. in Fort Wayne, IN respectively. Following her placement at Fort Wayne Metals Orla was awarded the 2014 Rachel Craig Prize for outstanding achievement in professional experience placement.  In July 2014 Orla was awarded an Irish Research Council EMBARK Postgraduate Scholarship to pursue a PhD in collaboration with Boston Scientific. Orla  specialises in computational modelling and experimental modelling techniques to investigate the long term potential of the next generation of Transcatheter Aortic Heart Valves (TAVI).

Project

Aortic stenosis is a degenerative disease of the aortic heart valve whereby calcium deposits build up on the leaflets of the heart valve and this can lead to regurgitation and stenosis. Transcatheter aortic heart valves are a minimally invasive alternative to surgical heart valves. They consist of tissue leaflets mounted on to a valve stent that is then crimped and delivered via a catheter to the site of the disease. This project involves using experimental and computational techniques to investigate the long term performance of Boston Scientifics LotusTM transcatheter aortic valve.

pushpa Pushpalata Kayastha (RA)

Pushpalata Kayastha was awarded a Bachelor in technology degree from GGSIPU, India in 2013. She was awarded MSc Biotechnology from NUI Galway in 2015. She is working as Research assistant in project funded by SFI in Biomedical Engineering under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara in the Mechanobiology Research Group in the Discipline of Biomedical Engineering, NUI Galway. The project is mechanobiology based approaches for treatment of bone osteoporosis and to explore the novel and intricate mechanisms involved in the mechanosensing and mechanotransduction pathways regulated by osteocytes in bone.

vesna Veasna Sum-Coffey (PhD)

Veasna is originally from Boston, MA, U.S.A. In 2011, she started her undergraduate degree in Biotechnology at National University of Ireland, Galway. She was rewarded a Wellcome Trust Vacation scholarship in 2013 to do an internship in Centre for Chromosome Biology. In 2015, she was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Biotechnology from National University of Ireland, Galway. The following year (2015/2016), she went on to complete her Masters of Science degree in Biomedical Science at National University of Ireland, Galway. Recently, she received a PhD studentship with Professor Laoise McNamara. Her PhD is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and Cúram, and it is a collaborative work with Stryker Instruments.

Stryker is a world leader in the area of surgical instrument innovation and development of bioresorbable and biodegradable medical devices for orthopaedic applications. The ideal outcome of surgical cutting is to remove biological tissue while minimising cellular damage, but also to leave a cut surface that is favourable for effective healing post-operatively or formation of a strong bond between an implant and surrounding tissue. Stryker is committed to the design and development of novel biomaterials and processing technologies for various applications, including orthopaedic joint replacement, nasal wound dressing and craniomaxillofacial tumour removal surgery. Innovation in the area of surgical cutting technology requires further research to understand the regenerative capacity of surgically cut bone, and also information on materials that can be used to enhance tissue healing after surgery. Veasna’s research is focused on these specific topics to inform future medical device applications.

Her project with Stryker will entail characterizing the properties of cut bone and determining the optimal parameters for viability of cut bone as an autograft material. She will also investigate the use of bio-resrobable materials to enhance/accelerate tissue re-modelling/healing after orthapaedic surgery. Particularly, she will be focusing on the response of primary tissue to cutting, and the agents required for accelerating bone healing and how they can be optimally delivered in vivo. This research will be used towards the development of the next generation of Stryker surgical instruments.

Wejdan Alansary  (PhD)

Wejdan Alansary is a 2nd year PhD student in Biomedical Engineering. In 2013, she completed MSc in Biomedical Science from National University of Ireland Galway. Wejdan has attained BSc in Science and Education with a Major in Biology form Umm Al-Qura University. In 2011, Wejdan was awarded a scholarship sponsored by The Higher Ministry of Saudi Arabia under King Abdullah Program, to pursue her PhD in National University of Ireland Galway. Her ongoing PhD research is based on The Role of Primary Cilia for Bone Mechanotransduction during Osteoporosis. This research involved comparing the morphology of primary cilia under normal and osteoporotic conditions. Currently, she is investigating the gene expression involved in primary cilia that may be associated with osteoporotic conditions, along with the application of mechanical stimulation.

Bone adaptation relies on osteocyte cells that appraise the mechanical environment and elicit a biochemical signalling response to initiate tissue adaptation when the mechanical environment is not favourable. Primary cilia (PC) have recently been proposed to play an important role in facilitating osteocyte mechanosensation. However it is not yet known whether PC expression or function is altered in mechanoregulatory osteocytes during the disease of osteoporosis. This research seeks to understand whether expression of PC is altered during osteoporosis using both in vitro and in vivo approaches. In-vitro studies involving bone marrow stromal cells and osteoblasts are being conducted to examine the response of these cells to mechanical stimulation with and without primary cilia.

  Anneke Verbruggen  (RA)

Anneke Verbruggen was awarded a Bachelor in biomedical engineering from National University of Ireland, Galway, in 2016. During this time she worked on a computational project demonstrating bone nano-indentation, aided by her supervisor (and an NUIG alumnus) Dr. Ted Vaughan. To further research this field and investigate where to specialise, she returned to Galway for a taught Masters degree in biomedical engineering (and is eagerly awaiting the results!). Anneke is presently working as a research assistant under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara in the Mechanobiology Research Group. This research is funded by the Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CURAM) and involves projects such as investigating the effects of estrogen on cellular mechanosenstation and osteogenesis in health vs. osteoporotic bone.