NUI Galway Collaborate with Canada on Next Generation Osteoarthritis Research Programme

Barry McDermott, a PhD student with the Translational Medical Device Lab in NUI Galway
Jun 12 2019 Posted: 14:59 IST

Barry McDermott, a PhD student with the Translational Medical Device Lab in NUI Galway, was awarded a prestigious Dobbin Atlantic Scholarship from the Ireland Canada University Foundation, provided with support from the Irish Government. The award aims to cultivate a new generation of academic links between Ireland and Atlantic Canada in areas including scientific and technological innovation.

Barry’s scholarship to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia allowed him to work with the *Moyer Lab for Clinical Biomechanics and Rehabilitation* on the development of MRI derived computational models of knee osteoarthritis. This work will feed into overall research conducted by Professor Moyer and her group into the development of clinically relevant biomarkers of osteoarthritis as well as therapeutic interventions designed to optimise joint health and reduce disease progression. This trip has opened a new set of academic links between NUI Galway and Dalhousie University in the area of Biomedical Engineering.

The research collaboration between the Moyer Lab and NUI Galway, plans to refine and further extend the models, validate them with real patient data, apply machine learning techniques and ultimately be able to objectively use MRI images of arthritic knees to identify patients at risk, indicate patients who would benefit from surgery, and optimise physical activity for patients. The goal is to develop between the two universities a technology that will aid in preserving and keeping affected knees as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

While in Canada, Barry developed a procedure to segment out the knee joint anatomies of normal and osteoarthritic patients from MRI images. These patients ranged in the severity and nature of the disease. The segmentation process involved using a computer to extract out tissues of interest from the MRI images which included the femur, the tibia, and the various cartilage layers. These segmented models had anatomically accurate 3D representations of the patient’s bone and cartilage tissues. At the same time an “ideal knee” was developed using computer aided design (CAD). This knee could be modified to flex or extend the joint, damage the cartilage, introduce abnormal rotation into the joint and to perform corrective surgery.

The anatomically accurate models of real patient data were then used to modify the ideal knee to be a CAD model of the patient’s joint. This CAD model was then divided into smaller parts which then can have simulated physical forces applied and the outcome calculated using the computer. The applied forces mimicked joint loading under different conditions with the stress and strain on the joint calculated and visualised. Using these techniques, the stress and strain on a damaged joint can be assessed under a particular loading and it can be seen if the stress and strain reduces if a different pattern of loading is used or indeed if surgery is performed. The preliminary results generated correlated well to real world patients.

Barry was also awarded Winner of ‘Best Paper: EMF Dosimetry - in silico tools and measurements’ at the first EMF-Med World Conference on Biomedical Applications of Electromagnetic Fields in Croatia last September. This was in relation to work on the development of 3D printable tissue mimicking materials and was in collaboration with Drs Anup Poudel and Manus Biggs in CÚRAM at NUI Galway and Dr Austin Coffey from WIT. 

Supervised by Dr Emily Porter and Dr Martin O’Halloran from the Translational Medical Device Lab at NUI Galway, a cross disciplinary group that combines medicine, science and engineering to help advance medical technology in a wide variety of areas, Barry’s main project is focused on the development of a novel device for ambulance-based brain imaging, as a low-cost and reliable method to classify strokes as either ischaemic or haemorrhagic. However, his multidisciplinary background allows him to contribute to a range of medical device and related research as evidenced by his two recent awards.

Speaking about his scholarship award, Barry McDermott, said: “I feel honoured to have received this scholarship and been given the chance to visit Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. My visit has given me the opportunity to initiate a unique collaboration between our two groups to develop innovative medical technologies, and to support a stronger understanding of orthopaedics for my future work at NUI Galway.”

Martin O’Halloran, Director of the Translational Medical Device Lab at NUI Galway, said: “Barry is a truly stellar PhD student, with a unique background in both Pharmacy and Veterinary medicine. Having that varied academic background allows him to contribute to a variety of medtech projects, and this award is a testament to both his research excellence and ambition.”

Barry McDermott is an Electronic and Computer Engineer, graduating from NUI Galway in 2016. He has a uniquely multidisciplinary background being also qualified as both a Veterinary Surgeon (MVB, UCD) and Pharmaceutical Chemist (B.Sc. (Pharm), TCD).

For more information about the Translational Medical Device Lab, visit: and for more about the Ireland Canada University Foundation, visit: 


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