Research

Neuroscience research at CSND is highly collaborative, and can be divided into three broad themes of Acute and Chronic Neurological Disorders which include:

Stroke:

Ischaemic stroke and neurodegenerative disorders are leading causes of death and disability worldwide and constitute a significant burden to patients and their families. Stroke is the third most important cause of death in Ireland, approximately 25% of sufferers die and 50% of sufferers have long-term neurological complications, contributing to health care and rehabilitation costs. Research within the centre investigates a family of genes that mediate stress-induced cell death, and examine the role of reduced energy supply during brain injury using genetic, molecular, physiology and imaging techniques.

Epilepsy:

Epilepsy is characterized by a predisposition to recurring seizures; uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in the brain. It is highly disabling and affects 1 in 100 people in Ireland. Our group is engaged in efforts to understand the effects of seizures on the brain and in particular, learning about the cell and molecular mechanisms responsible for epilepsy and identifying ways to protect the brain.

Motoneuron Degeneration:

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in the US and Motor Neuron Disease (MND) in the UK is the most common neurodegenerative disorder of young and middle aged adults that is incurable and invariably fatal. ALS is a disease with an incidence of approximately two per 10,000. In ALS patients motoneurons in the spinal cord and brain stem die, resulting in paralysis and eventual death. Little is known about the causes of ALS, and there is no cure for this condition. Work at the centre, have been involved in a study that has identified mutations in a gene encoding for angiogenin in ALS patients. The aim is to develop a technology for the systemic delivery of angiogenin protein or a variant thereof to therapeutically modulate angiogenin levels in the spinal cord of ALS patients. This could further lead to a delay disease progression and increase survival in patients suffering from motoneuron degeneration.

Gioblastoma:

Despite the many advances in cancer therapy, the survival of patients diagnosed with malignant gliomas and in particular glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer, remains dismal at approximately 12 months. The broad focus of Dr Murphy’s research in the RCSI is the induction of apoptotic cell death in malignant gliomas as these brain tumours are highly resistant to this particular form of cell death, resulting in cancer progression. The overall aim of Dr Murphy’s research is to increase the susceptibility of gliomas to apoptosis, thereby enabling current and future therapies to be more effective and hence improve patient survival.

The team’s research areas include: Delineating apoptotic signaling pathways in gliomas, with particular reference to the role of the Bcl-2 family (pro- and anti-apoptotic members) in the cell death resistant phenotype of gliomas, computational modelling of apoptotic cell death in gliomas and more recently, research has also begun on glioma stem cells and their role in brain tumor malignancy.

Diabetic Brain:

Obesity is quickly becoming a serious health problem worldwide, one which often leads to chronic complications such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.  It is thought that an imbalance between energy intake, storage, and expenditure can lead to body weight gain and diabetes. In the organism the balance between energy consumption and expenditure is tightly regulated by the brain, in particular by the hypothalamus. Thus, to understand the basis of obesity and type 2 diabetes it is essential to understand how the hypothalamus works towards maintaining this balance. Our research aims at studying the impact of diet on the function and survival of specific neurones in the hypothalamus, which may in turn help to explain the mechanisms that link diet to obesity and type 2 diabetes.