ImageJ=1.49v 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.

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.

ivor-geoghegan-profile-photo.jpg Ivor Geoghegan (PhD)

Ivor Geoghegan was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree specialising in Human Anatomy in 2011. He worked for two years in the medical device sector (Lake Region Medical) before returning to NUI Galway to complete an MSc in Biomedical Science in 2015 at NUI Galway. He is undertaking a PhD in Biomedical Engineering entitled “Investigations into bone cell mechanosensory mechanisms” under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara in the Mechanobiology and Medical Devices Research Group in the Discipline (MMDRG) of Biomedical Engineering at NUI Galway and Dr. David Hoey in the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering at Trinity College Dublin.

This project involves the characterisation of mechanosensory mechanisms and mechanobiological responses of bone cells cultured in healthy and estrogen withdrawal conditions. These studies involve bioreactor studies, in vitro cell culture, histology and biological analysis (immunocytochemistry, RT-PCR) expanding on established expertise. A particular focus is to delineate whether changes in mechanosensitive organelles (integrin-based adhesions and primary cilia) occur during osteoporosis, and identify changes in the biochemical signal transduction pathways in response to mechanical loading in osteoporosis. 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 osteoporosis. This work is also informing the creation and use of a co-culture microfluidic medical device to study the in vivo mechanical environment of bone in healthy and diseased states.

Ivor is funded by the CÚRAM (Centre for Research in Medical Devices).


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.

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.

 Vincent photo Vincent Casey (PhD)

Vincent is a graduate of NUI Galway (2016), where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. In his final year, Vincent completed a project investigating flow of surgical smoke, a by-product created during different cutting modalities (e.g. Radiofrequency ablation, ultrasonic, laser). Following this project, Vincent spent the summer working in Stryker’s Research & Development Innovation Centre in Carrigtwohill, County Cork.

Stryker is one of the world’s leading medical technology companies offer a diverse array of innovative products and services in Orthopaedics, Medical and Surgical, and Neurotechnology and Spine that help improve patient and hospital outcomes. Stryker is active in over 100 countries worldwide. Stryker established its presence in Ireland in 1998 and over the last 17 years has built a significant research and development competency and continued to expand its manufacturing operations in Ireland.

Vincent is now undertaking a PhD in collaboration with Stryker, under the supervision of Professor Laoise McNamara, carrying out toxicological, thermo-mechanical and biological investigations of bone and soft tissue cutting and non-mechanical removal. This project is intended to develop an understanding of the toxicological profile of by-products created during surgical cutting of tissue, to improve success rates of surgery and to maximise the amount of diseased tissue removed during surgery thus, for example, preventing the return of various cancerous conditions after removal of a tumour.

  Anneke Verbruggen  (PhD)

Anneke Verbruggen was awarded a Bachelor in biomedical engineering from National University of Ireland, Galway, in 2016. During this time she worked in the Lean Sigma department of Medtronic for 9 months (the only medical device company Cell system in the world). She also completed of a computational project demonstrating bone nano-indentation, aided by her supervisor (and 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. This included a group Bioinnovation project investigating an optimum method to tackle obesity. A fluid flow model, bench testing, an original patent and seven year business model were included in the thesis for an entirely novel device.

Anneke worked as a research assistant under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara in the Mechanobiology Research Group for 6 months. This research was funded by the Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CURAM) and involved projects such as the mechanical testing of bone aggregates originally optimized by Dr. Fiona Freeman (see Alumni section). Following a 7 month backpacking trip around the world to gain perspective, Anneke returned to begin a PhD with the MMDRG group.


Anneke was awarded the Hardiman Postgraduate Scholarship to conduct research into metastatic bone tissue. Specifically, she is assessing local tumour-induced changes in bone mechanical properties and composition, using animal models provided by Dr. Roisin Dwyer from the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI, NUI Galway). By applying methods such as nanoindentation and microCT scanning, Anneke hopes to pinpoint distinct differences in bone tissue microenvironment upon cancer invasion and replicate this process through computational modelling techniques (FEA) to establish why breast and prostate cancer favour bone tissue as a site for invasion.

juan alberto perez photo Juan Alberto Panadero Perez (Post Doc)

Dr. Juan Alberto Panadero Perez obtained his bachelor degree in Biotechnology from Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain), focused on cell and molecular biology. He holds a PhD from the University of Minho (Braga, Portugal). The aim of his thesis was to analyse fatigue of poly-ε-caprolactone (PCL) scaffolds for cartilage tissue engineering. He used different treatment conditions, including the effect inside of the pores of an extracellular matrix produced in vitro after cell culture. The research combined techniques of cell culture (with chondrocytes and bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells), biochemical evaluation of gene expression and extracellular matrix components, development of bioreactor facilities, fabrication of macroporous scaffolds and their physical and mechanical characterization. The results were relevant to conclude that fatigue testing provides information that would otherwise be missed with the usual mechanical testing of scaffolds.

Project Description:
Dr. Juan Alberto Panadero Pérez joined Prof. McNamara’s group in the frame of the SFI funded project: Mechanobiology based approaches for treatment of osteoporosis. His aim is to develop 3D culture models of osteoporotic bone to test the effect of drugs on the recovery or prevention from the disease. Currently, he is generating the required 3D environment in vitro by encapsulating bone cell lines in gelatin hydrogels, that simulate the elastic modulus of the early osteoid. These hydrogels are cultured with cells on bioreactors capable of cyclic hydrostatic pressure and researching the effects of estrogen withdrawal. He works as well in the effects of Y-27632, an inhibitor of the protein ROCK, which allows polymerization of the actin cytoskeleton. Our hypothesis is that the inhibitor can reduce the abnormal mineralization that can lead to osteoporosis.  For analysis of these studies, he optimized a method for RNA isolation from cell embedded in gelatin, which right now has a high efficiency for the low cell number we use.  Furthermore, he is developing systems for controlled release of this inhibitor from gels by using nanoparticles of hydroxyapatite (nHA). This kind of hydrogel will be implanted in ovariectomised rats, to allow the release of this inhibitor and other potential therapeutics, such as an antibody against sclerostin.

 Masooma Id photo Dr. Syeda Masooma Naqvi (Post Doc)

Masooma joined the Mechanobiology and Medical Device Research Group as a Post Doctoral Researcher in October 2017 after receiving her PhD from Trinity College Dublin. Masooma’s PhD research focused on investigating the specific environmental conditions that can aid in regeneration of the intervertebral disc using stem cells, specifically the nucleus pulposus region. In the earlier phase of her PhD, her research was focused on investigating extracellular matrix production by MSCs in response to different naturally occurring biomaterials and altered microenvironments. In the later phase of the PhD, microencapsulation of MSCs was explored for minimally invasive delivery for repairing damaged tissue. Prior to this Masooma received her MSc (Clinical Research) from NUI Galway where she also recieved her BSc in Biomedical Science. Her current research involves developing 3D in vitro models that mimic the changes that occur in bone mechanobiology during osteoporosis in an attempt to inform tissue regeneration strategies for the disease.

Project Description:
Bone is an adaptive tissue that has the capacity to continuously renew and repair itself throughout life in response to the mechanical demands on the tissue. Osteoporosis can impair this process leading to severe bone fractures, pain and immobility. Mechanobiology is an emerging field at the interface of biology and engineering, which seeks to understand the mechanisms by which biological cells sense and respond to mechanical signals. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that mechanobiological processes are fundamental to normal bone physiology and may also play an important role in the aetiology of osteoporosis. However, mechanobiological responses have not been targeted as treatments for osteoporosis. Masooma’s research will derive new information to inform the generation of novel mechanobiology-based therapeutic approaches for osteoporosis.

Vatsal Kumar Photo_ Vatsal Kumar (PhD)

Vatsal graduated from Manipal University, India in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. He went on to work for close to 3 years as a Verification and Validation engineer in Tata Elxsi, India in the area of medical electronics. In 2017, he came to NUI Galway to pursue MSc in Biomedical Engineering and worked on his thesis with the MMDR group. The thesis titled ‘Mechanobiology of Bone Metastasis’ investigated the effects of conditioned media from mammary carcinoma cells on Osteoblast mediated Osteoclastogenesis and the effect of 3D gelatin substrate stiffness and mammary carcinoma cell on Osteoblast mediated Osteoclastogenesis. After completing his Master’s in August, 2018, he has now begun his PhD titled ‘Mechanobiological model systems for bone metastases mimetics’, funded by the College of Engineering and Informatics scholarship, under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara in the MMDR group


This project will use advanced in-vitro and ex-vivo models that replicate bone metastasis in terms of biomechanical properties to study mechanobiological responses during metastasis. These models will be used to assess whether inhibition of these responses can affect tumor-cell and bone cell signalling, hence, essentially affecting the development of metastatic bone disease.

ozge karadas photo Özge Karadaş (Post Doc)

Özge is a visiting researcher from Izmir Institute of Technology, Turkey and joined the group as a short term EMBO scholar. She is graduated from Ege University Bioengineering Department, Turkey and in her master’s at Middle East Technical University she studied the comparison of osteogenic differentiation of Wharton’s jelly and menstrual blood derived stem cells on collagen scaffolds with in situ grown hydroxyapatite crystals.

She is a PhD student and working as a research assistant at her home university, and her thesis subject is the investigation of the effects of low intensity mechanical vibrations on the differentiation of stem cells seeded on filter paper based scaffolds. As a part of her research, she is performing studies with vibration/perfusion bioreactor at NUIG.

johanna melke photo Johanna Melke (PhD)

Johanna is a PhD student from the TU Eindhoven (The Netherlands) and currently a visiting researcher in Laoise McNamara’s group funded by the Mobility Award of the European Society for Biomechanics. She studied Molecular Bioengineering at Dresden University of Technology and obtained her Master’s degree in 2013 with a project on rapid bacteremia diagnosis, performed at Fraunhofer CMI in Boston, USA. In November 2013 she started her PhD in the group of Orthopedic Biomechanics in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology. The goal of her thesis was to pinpoint optimal culture strategies and identify relevant loading magnitudes that enable the development of bone-like tissue engineered constructs.

Her project in this group focuses on vascularization within bone tissue engineered constructs, specifically how mechanical stimulation of bone and angiogenesis are coupled. During her stay she is working with a novel perfusion/compression bioreactor in combination with non-invasive 3D live-cell imaging to monitor the development of vascular networks and bone tissue in 3D co-cultures under mechanical loading.