Experts Convene to Explore Molecules’ Influence on Disease

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

International experts will gather at NUI Galway later this month to further the scientific knowledge-base surrounding microRNA profiling.

MicroRNAs are a class of newly discovered molecules within our cells that control the activity of genes. The regulation and function of microRNAs is still poorly understood, but they are required for the normal functioning of our bodies. When their behaviour is perturbed, disease, such as cancer, can arise. As a result, there is enormous interest worldwide in developing microRNAs as diagnostic markers and even as therapeutics to treat a range of conditions.

The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) practical course entitled ’MicroRNA-profiling, from in-situ hybridization to next-generation sequencing’ takes place at NUI Galway from 21 to 27 May.

MicroRNA research at NUI Galway has been a growing area since 2006, supported in part by a Transfer of Knowledge Grant from the EU (under Marie Curie Framework 6). Research groups in the Schools of Medicine and Science (headed by Professor Michael Kerin, Dr Linda Howard, Dr Nicola Miller and Dr Sanjeev Gupta, amongst others) are investigating microRNAs. Their work is focussed on diagnostics for cancer, regenerative medicine and a broad range of basic research areas from cell death to cell cycle regulation.

These NUI Galway researchers will support a team of international experts who will come to Galway to train a group of 22 scientists from all over the world in the latest techniques for investigating microRNAs, as part of the EMBO course. The course will bring to NUI Galway basic and clinical researchers with interests ranging from marine algae, and viniculture to regenerative medicine and cancer therapy to learn the latest advances in microRNA techniques.

The course instructors are drawn from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, the Cambridge Cancer Centre, University of Cambridge and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and include Dr Eric Miska and Dr Greg Hannon, two very highly respected scientists in the microRNA field. The core of the team are experts from the EMBL-Gene Core, led by Dr Vladimir Benes who will share their extensive experience in techniques ranging from microarrays, in situ hybridization and RNA sequencing.

Dr Howard Fearnhead, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, School of Medicine at NUI Galway said, “MicroRNAs are small RNAs that are critically involved in controlling an enormously wide range of cellular processes through direct posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression. The realisation that these, and other small RNAs, are so important has driven an explosion of research activity that aims to identify, characterize and understand microRNA regulation and function. With this increase in interest comes the need to provide training in the cutting edge research technologies. The course at NUI Galway fulfils this requirement very well by bringing together highly motivated non-experts and a team of international experts to study, discuss and share a fascinating area of modern cell biology.”

The meeting is co-organised by Dr Howard Fearnhead, NUI Galway, in collaboration with Dr Vladimir Benes, and Dr Mirco Castoldi, EMBL-Heidelberg, and Dr Donal O’Carroll, EMBL-Montorotondo.

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