Examples of Projects supported.


Current Research Projects.

Professor Mark Ian Rees

Genetic Basis of Familial Epilepsy. 

Funding: UCB Pharma Ltd.

The Wales Epilepsy Research Network (WERN) has collected over 120 families with epilepsy and migraine.  These families have allowed us to find new susceptibility genes for epilepsy by applying a new technology called next-generation gene sequencing (exomes and genomes) in 13 large WERN families; we have also found five of the WERN families have mutations in known epilepsy genes and this is a diagnostic benefit for family members.   A further 26 medium-sized families have entered the international Epi4K epilepsy consortium based in the Universities of Columbia, Melbourne and Montreal. The epilepsy team at Swansea is the second highest recruiter for the families project and a hence a leading international centre. The Epi4k consortium will analyse more than 4,000 genomes, utilizing the most modern genetic techniques. It looks for new genes, or changes within genes, which will point toward specific brain pathways that can be targeted for the development of new drug treatments for patients with epilepsy and ultimately allow tailored treatments for an individual patients' epilepsy. 


Mr Dean Harries

Raman Spectroscopy: towards early diagnosis in colorectal cancer.

Funding: St David’s Medical Foundation Seed-Corn Grant 2013-2014.


Colorectal cancer often presents at an advanced stage despite minimal symptoms. The aim of the research was to develop a minimally invasive test to detect the presence of colorectal cancer markers based on the scientific principle of Raman spectroscopy. The research is being conducted in conjunction with the Centre for Nano Health in Swansea University and the St David’s Medical Foundation funding has been used to optimise the nanoparticle: antibody pairing prior to clinical application. The Seed-Corn support has led to a £99k three year PhD grant award from Cancer Research Wales to develop the application of this novel diagnostic method, which will also be able to detect recurrent disease at very early stages and plan early rescue treatments.

 

Dr Owain Howell

Cortical demyelination, meningeal inflammation and epilepsy in early Multiple Sclerosis.

Funding: St David’s Medical Foundation Seed-Corn Grants 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common disabling neurological disease of midlife with a typical age of onset of 30 years. People with MS can experience a rapidly worsening condition marked by substantial disability, a poor quality of life and an early death. As yet, it is not possible to predict how rapidly someone’s MS will evolve. We have shown that damage to the brains cortical grey matter (the wrinkled structure on our brains surface) is associated with inflammation of the meninges, which cover the brain. Our work has focussed on the immune-mechanisms driving brain injury and have gathered novel findings on how the innate immune system is key to this type of pathology. Moreover multiple sclerosis patients can suffer from seizures and we are searching for biological markers for such complications. This work could also open the way for the use of new drugs that are effective in controlling brain inflammation for use in patients with drug resistant epilepsy.

 

Dr Jeff Davies 

Ghrelin and Neuronal Development.

Funding: Waterloo Foundation.

Can stomach hormones be used to develop a therapy for human Parkinson's Disease?

Funding: St David’s Medical Foundation Seed-Corn Grant 2013-2014.

We are testing the hypothesis that the stomach hormone, ghrelin, and ghrelin-like drugs, protect human nerve cells that are lost in Parkinson’s Disease, the second most common degenerative brain disorder and for which there is no treatment available to stop the progressive nerve cell loss. An effective therapeutic is urgently required. We have shown that the stomach hormone, ghrelin, protects dopamine neurones in rodent in-vitro and in-vivo toxin models of Parkinson’s Disease, thereby identifying a key mechanism linking energy balance with brain function. Our ongoing work is to delineate the changes in the cell that explain this beneficial effect - and already we have found that one of the cell’s energy sensors is activated by the hormone. This work has been presented British Neuroscience Association meeting in Edinburgh. We have also published initial findings that ghrelin triggers neural stem cells to become neurones in the adult brain and that this results in improved memory function (Kent et al.2015): http://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(14)00399-0/abstract.

 

Stella Elliott and David Laws

Eyecare in Gambia.

Funding: Vision 2000.

The Ophthalmology Department of ABMU University Health Board is linked with the Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre. This Centre is the apex institution for eye disease in The Gambia and six West African countries within the Peace for Health initiative. Our Link provides clinical education, training and skills transfer. It provides training and education to the staff of Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre and follows three yearly activity cycles with two visits annually to Gambia (or one visit to Gambia and a visit to Singleton by the Gambia team). Outcomes of the project include - a paediatric service to treat avoidable blindness; a Glaucoma clinic; and medical engineer support for repair and servicing of equipment; provision of electronic notebook to facilitate email access for discussing problems; theatre training; infection control; sharps disposal; waste disposal; safe practice; role of scrub nurse; anaesthetic training and support nurse administration.


Professor Adrian Evans

Clotting Studies in Strokes and in sepsis (major infection)

Funding: Donation provided by the family of Dr W.T. and Mrs M.J.Edwards, Swansea.

This research is developing at new techniques to help diagnose those patients at risk of stroke much earlier and examine how sepsis promotes blood clotting. It will also look at the effectiveness of current treatment and how to improve therapeutic intervention and clinical outcome. The funding has allowed three young outstanding researchers to undertake, complete and submit excellent PhDs, two of which were specifically related to stroke and vascular disease: - Sophia Stanford – research into stroke and vascular disease; Dr Ahmed Sabra – research into cardiovascular clotting disease; Dr Gareth Davies – research into sepsis and vascular disease. Important progress has been made in devising methods for defining clot microstructure and demonstrating that change in clot microstructure is a precise and valuable tool for predicting risk of thrombosis and for monitoring outcomes of anticoagulant treatments. Dr Ahmed Sabra was awarded the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Maurice Ellis Scholar award for pioneering work in the field of Emergency Medicine allowing him to spend four weeks in the world renowned laboratories of Professor John Weisel at the University of Pennsylvania, where he learnt imaging techniques in investigating blood clots in strokes, critically ill patients and those with heart disease. This progress has enabled us to secure further funding of £2.7million to take our research programme to the next phase.


Dr Karl Hawkins

Evaluation of Haemolysis and Thrombosis in a Fully Implantable Artificial Heart Pump

Funding: Haemair and Calon-Cardio Technology Ltd.

Acute heart failure is a common cause of admission to hospital (over 67,000 admissions in England and Wales per year) and is the leading cause of hospital admission in people 65 years or older in the UK (Source: NICE). Novel devices such as implantable Ventricular Assist Devices (VAD) can, through pumping blood, support patients recovering from heart failure - but can often be associated with complications such as thrombosis. This project involves experimental evaluation into different VAD designs in order to minimise the risk of unwanted blood clots. The project has helped understand how different levels of shear stress and flow regimes leads to damage or activation of specific components of blood, such as platelet activation, haemolysis (rupture of red cells) and coagulation. Furthermore, the project is aiding the selection of advanced materials which show enhanced biocompatibility in terms of decreasing the likelihood of adverse cardiovascular events.


Some of the following have been successfully completed and conclusions published.

Professor Mark Gravenor and Dr Owen Bodger.    

An Early Response System for mapping and control of Bird Flu.

In this project, researchers at Swansea University's College of Medicine designed a mathematical model to help understand and control the early stages of an outbreak of bird influenza virus in the UK. This practical mathematical model continues to be maintained by Professor Gravenor and his team at the College of Medicine on behalf of UK government (DEFRA) for potential use during any epidemic. 


Professor Mark Gravenor and Dr Owen Bodger.

Prevention of MRSA infection spread in Wales.

This project focuses on the spread of the very important problem of MRSA infections in hospitals in Wales. Professor Gravenor and his team are developing a mathematical model of the spread of this antibiotic resistant MRSA bug, so that more successful methods can be developed for preventing the spread of the bug and the diseases it causes in hospitals.

 

Professor Steve Bain.

Controlling Diabetes.

With the support of Novo Nordisk the All-Wales Diabetes Research Network Laboratory is now in the Institute of Life Science at Swansea's College of Medicine. There, the research of Professor Bain and his team focuses on the very much needed better medical control of diabetes, and stronger prevention of the many fatal complications of the disease.

 

Professor Keith Lloyd.

Mental Health in Wales - Working with industry to advance research trials.

Funding from the MHRN in England is being used to investigate and promote working with industry in mental health research trials. Professor Lloyd and his team working closely with the network in England - with the goal of advancing mental health research methods in Wales.


Dr Ryan Trickett.

Wales Lower Limb Trauma Recovery.

Dr Trickett is developing a novel "scale" method to allow measurement of recovery following severe lower limb injury.

 

Dr Claire Morgan.

Prostate Cancer.

Dr Morgan is investigating underlying biological mechanisms of tumour growth in this very common and important cancer of men. The work aims to lay foundations for novel approaches to treatment and control of this cancer in the future.

 

Professor Ronan Lyons.

Road Traffic Injuries.

Professor Lyons and his team at Swansea's College of Medicine are developing a method for classifying the severity of injuries in road traffic accidents (Injury Severity Classification Study). The aim is to provide a method of practical use to police and ambulance teams dealing with road accident casualties - and one which guides stronger preventive measures in the future.

 

Professor Ronan Lyons.

Obesity in Wales - information from general practitioners.

Professor Lyons and his team are validating information on obesity data from GP records (within the Secure Anonymised information Linkage (SAIL) data bank). The object is to develop health policies for the stronger prevention and treatment of obesity and all its health consequences.                                          

 

Professor Ronan Lyons.

Orthopaedic Service Development.

Professor Lyons and his team are using the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) databank, to develop a method to analyse orthopaedic care pathways. This will support improvements in orthopaedic service design and quality, including the measurement of patient outcomes.

 

Professor Ronan Lyons.

Injury Research.

Professor Lyons is leading research into injury through the International Collaborative Effort on Injury Statistics and Methods (US National Centre Health Statistics). He believes the health burden of injury is underestimated. He utilises all available data and follows up injured individuals - and aims to advance prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of injury.

 

Professor Ronan Lyons.

Dermatology Research.

Skin diseases are important and hence this project is being undertaken on behalf of Public Health Wales NHS Trust. It will use general practice data within the anonymised SAIL databank in order to improve the planning of dermatology services.

 

Professor Ronan Lyons.

“Quit Smoking” Project.

This vital project is being undertaken on behalf of Public Health Wales NHS Trust. The aim to identify the best smoking cessation interventions currently available through general practice and Stop Smoking Wales (SSW). The results will be used to drive advance in "quit smoking" services.

 

Professor Ronan Lyons.

Health Services Access and Public Transport.

This project is being undertaken on behalf of ABM University Health Board as part of NHS Wales modernisation and re-configuration of services. Public transport access is an important issue and Professor Lyons' team are assisting ABMU-HB in developing integrated transport modes for every small area, which may then extend across Wales.

 

Professor Ronan Lyons.

Healthy Cities/Healthy Environment.

This is collaboration between Professor Ronan Lyons’ team at the Farr Institute, Swansea University and Environmental Health Specialists (Swansea City Council). This research programme will use highly detailed specific local data sets for Air, Land, Water, Noise environmental quality and seek to identify whether there are quantifiable effects on local populations. Such information would be tremendously helpful in informing any necessary interventions to protect and improve the health of the public.

 

Dr Ricardo Del Sol.  

The safety of the antimalarial drug, Fexinidazole.

Dr Del Sol and his team aim to resolve whether there are any mutagenic (DNA damaging) effects from Fexinidazole, a promising candidate drug use to treat the very common and important tropical disease, Sleeping Sickness (infection with Trypanosoma brucei).

 

Professor Gareth Jenkins.

Oesophageal Cancer.

Professor Jenkins is investigating the origins of cancer of the gullet (or oesophagus) - and these approaches are highly relevant to future prevention of the disease.

 

Dr Stephen Roberts.

Health Care Outcomes.

This important work investigated measures of senior medical input and outcomes (mortality, readmissions, major infections, lengths of inpatient stay, etc.) for acute emergency admissions across 26 hospitals in England - and will help formulate designs for future services.

  

Professor DRR Williams,

Obesity in the young (Sir Gar Project).

Professor Williams and his team addressed early recognition of obesity in the young in Carmarthenshire (Hywel Dda Trust / Coleg Sir Gar). The study showed that early-life obesity (with a tubby belly) damages the body's metabolism (related to diabetes) and also the body's blood vessels. These important findings emphasise the vital need to prevent obesity early. 

 

Professor Stephen Allen.

International Health: Swansea - West Africa Links.

Professor Allen founded and leads the strong link between Swansea's College of Medicine and ABMU-HB with colleagues in West Africa (in The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria). These links bring medical staff and students together to work for mutual benefit on health issues of common interest (clinical care, health service delivery, teaching and research). With Gambia there is exchange of medical students plus education and training in diabetes, eye care, clinical audit and pathology. The Ibadan-Swansea Partnership focuses on eLearning.  In Sierra Leone's Ola During Children’s and Princess Christian Maternity Hospitals, nursing practice and laboratory services are being developed.


Professors John White and Stephen Conlan.        

Cancer of the Uterus.

Professors White and Conlan have studied tissue from healthy and cancerous uteri - applying modern molecular and cellular methods in order to recognise signals that characterise the development of cancer in the uterus. These "biomarkers" will be developed as diagnostics and may lay the foundations for novel treatment approaches also.                                                           .

 

Dr G E Johnson. 

Environmental exposures and cancer.

Dr Johnson is looking to improve the use of genetic toxicology (gene damage) information on chemical compounds to which human populations are exposed, and relate this to the risk of developing cancer.

 

 Dr Josie Parker.

 Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Cytochrome P540 in Cholesterol Metabolism: Potential new drug target for latent Mycobacterium Tuberculosis.

This research investigates the utilisation of host cholesterol by TB. This is an essential biological process in latent (dormant) TB infection, for which new drug treatments are desperately needed. This study will further our understanding of this process and examine possible new drug targets.