Chloe Hobbs

Exploring antibiotic combinations to improve the treatment options for biofilm-associated diabetic foot infections.

Supervisors: Prof. James O’Gara and Dr. Georgina Gethin.

Background: Chloe Hobbs BSc, is an NUI Galway microbiology graduate, with an interest in the field of infectious disease microbiology. During her final year project as part of the pathogenic mechanisms group at NUIG she gained insight into how different bacteria cause infection and how these bacteria can live and grow as part of antibiotic tolerant communities called biofilms.

Explanation of research: During this study clinical specimens collected from the wounds of patients with infected diabetic foot ulcers will be used to improve our understanding of the different types of bacteria responsible for these infections. The ability of combinations of currently licensed antibiotics to improve treatment options for diabetic foot infections will then be evaluated.

Why this study is Important: Diabetic foot infections (DFIs) are a serious problem and can be very difficult to treat. With few new antibiotics under development, we are overly reliant on currently licensed antibiotics, limiting the therapeutic options for infections such as DFIs. The overall goal of this project is to improve the treatment options available for patients living with infected diabetic foot ulcers by combining currently used antibiotics to enhance their ability to treat these infections.

Funding: This project is funded by the Health Research Board as part of the DFD PRIMO programme.

Catherine Healy

Development and characterisation of a wound pain model and investigation of the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids 

Supervisors: Professor David Finn, Professor Abhay Pandit and Dr. Georgina Gethin 

Background: Catherine completed her B.Sc (Hons) in Biomedical Science at NUI Galway where she specialised in Pharmacology. 

Explanation of Research: Catherine’s research involves investigating the role of the body’s cannabinoid system in pain associated with chronic wounds, and chronic wound healing. Her research also looks at how the manipulation of this system could be used to manage chronic wound pain and help with chronic wound healing. 

Why this project is important: Patients report that pain is one of the most difficult aspects of living with a chronic wound, but research into understanding how this pain occurs, and how to manage this pain is lacking.  

Funding: This project is jointly funded by Science Foundation Ireland/CÚRAM and industry partner. 

Mirella Ejiugwo

Bioengineering animal-free and effective in vitro diabetic foot ulcer models for drug testing

Supervisors: Prof. Gerard O’Connor, Prof. Yury Rochev and Prof. Timothy O’Brien.

Background: Applied Biology & Biopharmaceutical Science/Clinical Research

Explanation of the research “Ooch!” – everyone has had a wound, one time or the other. We often overlook the blessing of seeing our wounds heal. Well, scars are there to help us remember. However, this isn’t the same story for everyone. Individuals with diabetes develop complications that make their wounds hard to heal – diabetic foot ulcers (DFU). Therefore, DFU remain open, become infected and, therefore, the affected limb will need to be amputated. Following amputation, there is a 50% chance of affected individuals dying within 5 years.

Although there is an active field in the development of drugs that heal DFU, the current drug testing systems – animals and cell-based models - are ineffective. Therefore, my research is targeted at developing animal-free and effective in vitro DFU models for testing novel drugs for DFU treatment and, therefore, expedite effective drugs to treat individuals with DFU.

Why the project is important: There is a clear need to see that effective drugs are available to patients on time. Therefore, my research will benefit the treatment of patients with DFU: effective drugs will be identified on time and, therefore, be introduced to treat and, hence, save limbs…save lives.

Funding source: This work is supported by the EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Engineered Tissues for Discovery, Industry and Medicine, Grant Number EP/S02347X/1.

Hendrik Muller

Development of a temperature realistic model of the diabetic foot ulcer

Supervisor: Dr. Georgina Gethin and Prof. Gerard O’Connor.

Background: Hendrik Müller, M.Sc. (Medical Engineering Science, University of Lübeck). PhD student in the School of Physics, NUI Galway since 2018.

Funding: Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the European Regional Development Fund (Grant Number 13/RC/2073)

Explanation of research: Chronic wounds (not healing or difficult to heal) are a challenge for those affected, physicians trying to treat them as well as the healthcare system. To know the condition of a wound that is covered by a bandage (if the patient is at home), can help making treatment decisions when they are required. To test prototypes of smart bandages (a bandage with sensors that can collect and send information about the wound condition) in a laboratory, a model wound needs to mimic a real wound as closely as possible. To build such a wound model (artificial wound), data from real wounds is analysed to find out “how a chronic wound usually looks like”. Then, using this information, a physical recreation of a wound is being developed with a focus on the wound temperature. The challenges include: Spatial statistical analysis of thermal images of wounds, GUI programming for operating manufacturing hardware, process development for additive manufacturing and laser processing (micro-structuring of surfaces, curing and sintering of metal nanoparticle inks), development of a numerical model in COMSOL to follow the manufacturing project.