By Tara Hoskin
An All-Ireland MS Research Network has been launched by researchers in NUI Galway, Queen’s University Belfast, and RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences. The founding members of the network are now putting out a call for researchers at undergraduate or early postgraduate level to apply for their All-Ireland MS Research Network Research Summer Scholarships.
The network, which is the first of its kind for MS (Multiple Sclerosis) in Ireland, hopes that this opportunity will lead to improving the lives of those currently living with MS and for future generations. Scientists, clinicians, healthcare professionals, and people with MS will work together across the island of Ireland to create further research into MS. By using collaborative methods this research will be able to bring first-hand accounts of people living with MS to the forefront of their research.
Approximately 13,500 people in Ireland are living with Multiple Sclerosis, with 4,500 of them being in Northern Ireland and 9,000 in the Republic. MS is one of the most common causes of neurological disability among young people, and it is becoming more prevalent globally. The chronic condition affects the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve). It can result in a range of symptoms that affect individuals differently, these include impairment of mobility and vision as well as cognitive difficulties and severe fatigue.
The Research Network has set out four main goals that will drive their research. They hope to deliver cutting-edge research in multiple sclerosis that focuses on limiting disease progression. There is a focus on training the next generation of leaders in multiple sclerosis research. Along with this, they will communicate their research activities and discoveries around MS to the public, the research community, and key stakeholders. The network will also collaborate on MS research programmes nationally and internationally to achieve its mission.
Dr Una Fitzgerald of Biomedical Engineering department in the College of Science and Engineering at NUI Galway is one of the founding members of the All-Ireland MS Research Network. She believes the network could lead the way in new discoveries.
“We firmly believe that closer collaborations and sharing of ideas and expertise across the network will lead to exciting discoveries that better explain multiple sclerosis pathology and symptoms, and that could be the basis of new approaches to MS disease management. The network will facilitate excellence in new multiple sclerosis research discoveries that might otherwise not happen.”
The cooperative ethos of the Research Network is welcomed by Alexis Donnelly who has been living with progressive MS for nearly 30 years. “This network will facilitate multiple sclerosis researchers throughout the island to cooperate across institutional and disciplinary boundaries, linking them not only with each other but with international colleagues and allowing fresh results and insights to flow back and forth.”
The MS Research Summer Scholarships follows a generous donation from Eamon Haughton and Declan Smith, of Chemical Systems Control Ireland. The first scholarship will be awarded in 2021 to a candidate who is hoping to pursue an MS-focused research career.
For more details about the scholarship see www.aims-rn.org/funding and to find out more about The All-Ireland MS Research Network you can follow them on Twitter @aims_rn.