Tuesday, 27 February 2001

Release date: 27 February, 2001 NUI Galway Scientists Investigate the Problem of Premature Births Approximately 5-10% of all babies born in Ireland are pre-term deliveries and in the Galway area the exact incidence is 6-7%, according to work published by the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at NUI, Galway. Premature babies require long periods of hospitalisation in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and experience problems in relation to ventilation, infection, nutrition and overall development. It is known that these babies suffer high incidence of complications in childhood including chest complications, hearing and visual defects, developmental delay and cerebral palsy. Professor John Morrison at the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, NUI, Galway together with Dr. Terry Smith of the National Diagnostics Centre, NUI, Galway have initiated and set up novel research with the aims of primarily outlining causes of premature labour at the gene expression level, and secondly developing new methods of treatment for pre-term labour. This research has identified novel genes, which are switched on and apparently up-regulated at the time of human labour. Further evaluation of this gene expression will help to explain the cascade of events that lead to women going into labour early. In addition, this research has demonstrated that compounds related to this gene expression may be used in the treatment of pre-term labour. This research, which is unique in Ireland, involves taking a minute biopsy from the muscle of the womb (called the myometrium) at Caesarean section, which is a strictly regulated procedure that is approved by the Ethics Committee at University College Hospital Galway. Tissue collection takes place in the hospital and the molecular and physiological research is carried out in the Clinical Science Institute (NUI, Galway Medical School) and in the National Diagnostic Centre on campus. This research is being funded by the HEA, the Health Research Board and the NUI, Galway Millennium Research Fund. Professor John Morrison is available for interview on this subject. ENDS Information from: Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press Officer, NUI, Galway. Tel: 091-750418

Wednesday, 21 February 2001

Release date: 21 February, 2001 New Registrar appointed in NUI Galway Professor Jim Browne has been appointed Registrar of NUI, Galway. A former Dean of Engineering and Director of CIMRU (Computer Integrated Manufacturing Research Unit), Professor Browne commences his four-year term of office at a time of rapid growth and development in NUI, Galway. New buildings, which have come on stream as part of a £45m capital development plan, have greatly improved facilities for the university s students, now numbering more than 11,000. One of Professor Browne s priorities is the implementation of improved policies and strategies to encourage excellence in teaching and research. "With the rapid developments in tele-computing and multimedia, new flexible learning models are now possible and desirable", says Professor Browne. " A well-resourced university- wide initiative to develop ICT (Information and Communications Technology) enabled teaching and learning for all students, will facilitate part-time and mature students in particular." The traditional role of a university is to advance knowledge through research and scholarship. In recent years however, its role in providing skilled graduates for a knowledge-based economy has also been emphasised. Pressing social and community objectives, such as the provision of systems to accommodate second chance education and mature students must also be met. "Against this background of change and growth", says Professor Browne "the Registrar must provide academic leadership to the academic community and ensure the primacy of the academic mission in the life of NUI, Galway." Ends Information from: Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press Officer Tel. 091 750418

Monday, 19 February 2001

Release date: 19 February, 2001 How bad is the air we breathe? New Environmental Study to investigate latest levels The dramatic increase in the volume of traffic, regularly causing gridlock on our city streets, is not simply a cause of frustration but also a health hazard. There are other air pollutants however, and although traffic is an important source, its contribution to air pollution levels is not yet quantified for Irish cities. A major three-year survey headed by Professor Gerard Jennings of the Air Quality Technology Centre, Department of Experimental Physics at NUI, Galway will investigate the impact of various factors, including transport on air quality. The project, funded to amount £411,000, is part of the Environmental Research Programme 2000-2006 of the National Development Plan, which is beingimplemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "The main objective of the research will be to determine the principal sources of particulate matter (PM) emitted to urban air, by obtaining the chemical composition of the air pollution particles", says Professor Jennings. Primary sources such as road traffic and industry and secondary sources, resulting from chemical reaction of vehicle exhaust gases, will be identified. Urban pollution also comes from rural sources. "Air pollution knows no boundaries," warns Professor Jennings, "so it is important to obtain the contribution of trans-boundary air pollution to urban levels." "Time is running out for us to put our house in order in this regard," says Professor Jennings. "Compliance must to be reached by 2005 with stringent air quality standards for aerosol particulate levels, laid down by the European Union. These standards are measured in terms of mass concentration of particles smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter, so called PM10 Five sampling sites will be used in the Study, with two sampling locations in Dublin City (College Street and the Civic Offices, Dublin Corporation) and one in Cork City. A rural site in County Galway (near Ballinasloe) and a coastal site on the east coast will also be used. It is hoped to identify areas vulnerable to exceedances of PM limits and to understand the causes of these exceedances and their potential impact on air quality and health- related issues. Where exceedances do occur, it will be necessary to introduce measures in order to reduce emissions of PM10 substances, so as to secure compliance limits set by the European Union. Professor Jennings has already carried out a ground-breaking study in partnership with Dublin Corporation and TMS Environment Ltd., at six Dublin City sites over a thirteen-month period from January 1996 to January 1997. He says that, "the role of pollutant aerosol particles takes on extra significance because of the linkage of PM10 and PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 micrometres in size) with human health. A strong association has been found between morbidity rates and increased PM levels, as shown for example by several studies in US cities". A consortium of partners, co-ordinated by Prof. S. Gerard Jennings, will participate in this new Study. They include: University of Birmingham, Division of Environmental Health (Prof. R.M. Harrison, Dr. A.G. Allen); Dublin Corporation - Atmospheric Pollution and Environment Unit (Ms Evelyn Wright), and University College Cork, Department of Chemistry (Prof. John Sodeau, Dr.John Wenger), in collaboration with Cork Corporation (Edmond Barry). Professor Jennings is available for interview on this Study Ends For further details: Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press Officer, NUI, Galway. Tel. 091-750418

Monday, 12 February 2001

Release date: 12 February, 2001 NUI Galway scientists develop rapid test for potentially paralysing infection When people complain of suffering from a tummy bug, it might be just a mild infection, which is easily treated leaving no after effects. Alternatively, they could be among the increasing number of sufferers in this country, who have contracted a form of gastroenteritis, which may lead to paralysis. Scientists at NUI, Galway have developed a rapid test to detect strains of Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni), the commonest cause of gastroenteritis worldwide, with the potential to cause a rare neurological complication, known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). "There are increasing concerns at the level of illness caused by C. jejuni infection, which now exceeds the combined total of enteritis cases caused by Salmonella, E. coli, and Shigella", says Dr. Anthony Moran of NUI, Galway s Department of Microbiology, who has done extensive research in this area. "Although numbers of sufferers in this country are on the increase, there is limited public awareness of the condition, which if not diagnosed and treated correctly, can have catastrophic consequences for the patient". In total, 2085 cases of laboratory-confirmed C. jejuni enteritis were reported in 1999 in Ireland. In the UK and US, where there is significant public awareness of the condition, C. jejuni is regarded as a major contributor to employee absenteeism. It is estimated that 2 million working days per year are lost in the UK due to gastroenteritis caused by C. jejuni. Furthermore, there is an estimated annual incidence of C. jejuni-associated enteritis of between 2-10 million cases in the USA alone, and the condition costs in the region of $1.3-6.2 billion US dollars per annum. Symptoms of C. jejuni infection usually include diarrhoea, fever, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps, which are often severe enough to mimic appendicitis. Enteritis most often results from consumption of untreated milk or water, or via consumption of undercooked poultry meat. Patients with C. jejuni enteritis usually recover within a few days but in a small proportion of cases, a rare neurological disorder, known as Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) develops 7-10 days after the onset of enteritis symptoms. According to Dr. Martina Prendergast, a member of Dr. Moran s research team, "the disease affects about 1-2/100,000 of the population per year, translating into 40-50 potential new Irish GBS cases each year". Significantly, Dr. Moran says that, "GBS has replaced polio as the leading cause of infectious paralytic disease. Moreover, he adds that, "when added to the cost of C. jejuni enteritis, treatment costs for GBS add up to a further $2 billion US dollars to the economic impact of C. jejuni infection in the USA each year". Although it affects both sexes of any age, GBS affects men more commonly than women by a ratio of 1.5:1, and the incidence increases with age. Symptoms of GBS begin with a tingling or a pins and needles feeling in the toes and tips of fingers, which rapidly progresses to include the whole of the limbs. Weakness and numbness progress to a paralysis, which may involve respiratory muscles. Months can elapse before the patient s recovery begins. Substantial improvement occurs within the next 3-12 months in the majority of cases, but 20% of GBS patients are left with a residual disability and about 5% of patients die. In most cases of GBS, a link with C. jejuni infection is suspected. The rapid test to detect C. jejuni strains that the research team of Dr. Anthony Moran and Dr. Martina Prendergast of the Department of Microbiology in NUI, Galway have developed, eliminates the need to grow large quantities of organism and substantially reduces the time needed for strain characterisation. "Hundreds of strains can be screened quickly and cheaply, and the test could be routinely used in hospital laboratories to detect potential disease-causing strains", says Dr. Moran. The research team is also investigating safety issues in the development of a C. jejuni vaccine. The work is funded as part of a three-year on-going project by the Irish Health Research Board. Dr. Anthony Moran is available for interview on the details of his research. Ends Information from: Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press Officer. Tel. 091 750418

Tuesday, 6 February 2001

Release date: 6 February, 2001 NUI Galway Graduate appointed Cardinal Pope John Paul has announced the appointment of seven more Cardinals, among them the Franciscan Archbishop of Durban (Republic of South Africa), Wilfrid Napier. Wilfrid Napier was born in Matatiele, South Africa, in 1941 and grew up amid the injustices brought about by the apartheid regime of the country at that time. His family knew the Franciscans from Ireland, who ministered in the area and Wilfrid came to this country, where he joined the Order at their Novitiate in Killarney. He went on to study in the Faculty of Arts at NUI, Galway, where he took a B.A. degree in Latin and English, graduating in 1964. He excelled at sports - and is still prone to using sporting metaphors when preaching. Having been professed in St Anthony s College, Galway in 1964, he went to the Irish Franciscan College at Leuven, Belgium, where in succession he took degrees in Philosophy and in Theology. He then returned to his native South Africa, where he has progressed to the highest ranks of the Catholic Church. He became Bishop of Kokstad, his native diocese, in 1981, at the age of forty. He served a term as President of the South African Bishop s conference, and was frequently its spokesman. In 1992, he was appointed Archbishop of Durban. As a distinguished alumnus of the University, Archbishop Napier was conferred with an Honorary Doctor of Laws in NUI, Galway on June 26th 1995. Ends Information From: Máire Mhic Uidhir. Press Officer, NUI, Galway. Tel. 091 750418

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