Dr. Eilís Dowd 

Eilís Dowd was appointed as a Lecturer in Pharmacology in NUI, Galway in September 2005. Prior to that, Eilís completed six years of post-doctoral research in Cardiff University, McGill University (Montreal), and Cambridge University. Her PhD research was conducted in the Department of Pharmacology at Edinburgh University, and was awarded in 1999. 

Within the Department of Pharmacology at NUI, Galway, Eilís is currently involved in teaching pharmacology to undergraduate science and medical students, as well as post-graduate science students. 

Eilís’ current research is focused on developing and validating novel pharmacological, cell and gene therapies for Parkinson’s disease (see below). Her current research is funded by the Irish Health Research Board, Science Foundation Ireland, and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology. Some of Eilís’ previous research projects were funded by the Wellcome Trust (UK) and the Parkinson’s Disease Society (UK).

Contact details:

Email: eilis.dowdnuigalway.ie 
Tel: + 353 91 492776 
Fax: + 353 91 525700 
Web:  http://www.nuigalway.ie/neuroscience

Research Interests

Parkinson’s disease is a motor disorder and the main symptoms of the disease are caused by the progressive degenerative of dopamine-containing neurons from a discrete region of the brain. Current therapy only provides relief from the symptoms of the disease - it does not offer a ’cure’, nor does it halt the unrelenting degeneration of the dopaminergic neurons.

Eilís’ research is focused on experimental approaches that offer the possibility of halting the degenerative process or even ’curing’ the disease. These include developing and validating novel neuroprotective or neuroreparative pharmacotherapies, gene therapies or cell-based therapies. Some of the active research projects in the lab are outlined below. 

Link to Recent Publications

Cannabinoid pharmacotherapy – The endocannabinoid system has recently emerged as a potential novel target for the pharmacotherapy of Parkinson’s disease. Indeed, pre-clinical studies have indicated that cannabinoid drugs may have multiple benefits for Parkinsonian patients including alleviation of their motor symptoms, reduction of the severe motor side effects associated with Parkinson’s disease treatment, and protection of the dopamine neurons that have not yet died in the condition. This project is clarifying the therapeutic potential of cannabinoid drugs for Parkinson’s disease. This project is funded by IRCSET and is in collaboration with Dr. David Finn (Department of Pharmacology, NUI, Galway) and Dr. Adrienne Gorman (Department of Biochemistry, NUI, Galway). 

Heat shock gene therapy for brain protection – Induction of heat shock proteins is part of the cells’ ’stress response’ and renders them more resistant to a variety of toxins. Recent studies have shown that heat shock proteins are capable of protecting cells from toxins normally associated with Parkinson’s disease, suggesting that they may provide a novel treatment for this disease. This project is using a virus-based gene therapy approach to determine if heat shock proteins are capable of preventing neuronal death and motor impairments in a models of Parkinson’s disease. This project is funded by Science Foundation, Ireland and is in collaboration with Dr. Adrienne Gorman (Department of Biochemistry, NUI, Galway), Dr. Aideen O’Doherty (Clinical Sciences Institute, NUI, Galway) and Prof. Timothy O’Brien (Regenerative Medicine Institute). 

Adult stem cells for brain repair and/or protection  – Numerous clinical trials have shown that neurons can be transplanted into the Parkinson’s diseased brain to replace the dopamine neurons that have died as a result of the disease process. However, to date, there is no established source of neurons that can be used for widespread application of this therapy. This project is investigating stem cells extracted from the bone marrow as a potential cell source for brain repair and/or protection. This project is funded by the Irish Health Research Board and is in collaboration with Dr. Linda Howard (Regenerative Medicine Institute) and Prof. Frank Barry (Regenerative Medicine Institute). 





Development of a novel Parkinson’s disease model – Central to the development of new treatments for any human disease is the availability of models that replicate classic features of the disease. In Parkinson’s disease research, the development of new therapies is hampered by the lack of availability of such a model. However, recent studies have shown that administration of the pesticide rotenone causes a movement disorder and neuropathology reminiscent of human Parkinsonism. Thus, this project aims to generate a novel rotenone model that will facilitate the development of novel treatments for Parkinson’s disease. This project is funded by Science Foundation, Ireland.