Feb 16 2012 Posted: 14:05 GMT
Four researchers at the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB), NUI Galway, have been awarded Short-Term Travel Fellowships by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). Bill Daly, Mohammad Abu-Rub, Dr Xuejun Hu and Shane Browne will travel to prestigious research institutes in the US and China to progressing NFB ambitions in the cardiac, neural and wound-healing fields.

Shane Browne will travel to Harvard Medical School where he will work with Professor Richard Lee for six months on a study to demonstrate the efficacy of a biomaterial-based gene delivery system for treatment following myocardial infarction (heart attack). The complex delivery system addresses the inflammatory response and promotes healing following cardiac events. This system, which will enable re-modelling and re-vascularisation of damaged cardiac tissue, has already been developed at the NFB as part of Shane’s doctoral thesis. The work undertaken at Harvard will facilitate progression to Phase I clinical trials.

Mohammad Abu-Rub and Bill Daly, both PhD students, will spend six months working with
Dr Simon Dillon at the Proteomics Facility at the Dana Faber Cancer Institute, part of the Harvard Medical School in the US. Mohammad’s PhD thesis is in the area of neural regeneration, and he has developed a platform technology, based on a hydrogel system, to target spinal cord injury at the cellular and molecular level. Bill’s work will focus on neural cell behaviour on engineered scaffolds. He has already developed a novel, collagen-based technology as a solution to neural tissue damage in the peripheral nervous system, resulting from injury or neural degenerative diseases.

Postdoctoral researcher Dr Xuejun Hu’s studies are centred on the development of a gene therapy to promote skin regeneration. This new therapy is of potential benefit to patients of Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (RDEB). RDEB is a condition characterised by hard-to-heal, chronic wounds which can leave patients in constant pain. Xuejun will spend three months working at Dalian Medical University, China, with Professor Qi Wang, in order to further develop this gene therapy, determining which gene vector will be constructed, with a view to improved treatment for RDEB patients.

According to Professor Abhay Pandit, Director of the NFB: “Travel awards allow researchers to undertake training and gain skills in leading edge technologies which they can later apply when they return to Ireland.”

The four researchers are supervised by Professor Abhay Pandit and Dr. Wenxin Wang, of the NFB at NUI Gawlay, an SFI-funded Strategic Research Cluster. The NFB, which includes national and international academic and industry partners, aims to design the next generation of functional biomaterials, providing clinical solutions to unmet clinical needs.


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