Biomarkers and Diagnostic Tools

Professor Fiona Lyng. Identification of clinically important, high risk oral lesions using Raman spectroscopy.

Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world and has a poor 5 year survival rate of approximately 50%. There is a significant clinical need for new tests that can detect oral cancer early. Identification of high risk oral lesions would allow these lesions to be treated aggressively to improve the survival rates of oral cancer patients. Professor Lyng’s project aims to investigate the potential of Raman spectroscopy for the detection of precancerous oral lesions, such as oral leukoplakia, based on their biochemical fingerprint.

Dr Steve Meaney. Potential of non-cholesterol sterols (oxysterols) for diagnosis of human disease.

Cholesterol is an ubiquitous molecule which is present in all cells and which may be converted into a wide range of metabolites. Cerebrosterol is one such metabolite that is formed in the brain and has been used as a marker of brain cholesterol balance in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. The full diagnostic potential of these metabolites has yet to be explored. Dr. Meaney is a member of the Irish Network for Biomarkers in Neurodegeneration which seeks to identify and validate biomarkers for neurodegenerative disease.

Dr Denise Drudy. Epidemiology of Clostridium difficile colitis (CDI) Ireland.

The primary risk factors for the development of CDI include exposure to antibiotics, exposure to a healthcare environment, and treatment with acid-suppressing medications. C. difficile spores can remain viable in the environment for relatively long periods and are resistant to most routine surface cleaning methods, except for diluted bleach. Greater understanding of the epidemiology of this organism in Ireland is essential in managing CDI.

Dr Celine Herra and Dr Denise Drudy. Zoonotic potential of Irish porcine C. difficile and MRSA isolates.

In recent years the emergence of C. difficile and MRSA in livestock animals has raised concerns regarding the potential for transmission to humans following direct animal exposure and along the meat production food chain. Investigation of the transmission routes of these common pathogens in Irish livestock will address emerging public health concerns regarding crossinfection to humans and environmental contamination.


Dr Claire Wynne and Dr Steve Meaney. Cholesterol containing microparticles as biomarkers of cardiovascular disease.

In recent years it has become apparent that remnants of cells called microparticles (MPs) are present in the circulation and are increased in cardiovascular disease (CVD) and autoimmune conditions such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). As SLE and RA are both independent risk factors for heart disease MP cholesterol may be a mediator of the elevated risk in SLE and RA. The potential for cholesterol in MPs as a diagnostic and stratification biomarker in SLE and RA has not yet been explored and is a key area of research interest.

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