NUI Galway research into Sudden Adult Death Syndrome and future genetic cures for the disease is to be supported by The Cormac Trust.
Support from The Cormac Trust will allow research into the mechanism of the disease and allow for the discovery of new treatments using stem cell technology.
The Trust was set up by Bridget and Brendan McAnallen after the sudden death of their son Cormac in 2004.
Cormac was a well-known as a member of Tyrone’s All Ireland winning side in 2003.
Since 2004, the McAnallen family have been keen to direct public attention to these cardiac conditions that cause sudden deaths.
The issue of sudden cardiac death among young people became more widely known following the death of Cormac and Irish youth rugby international John McCall.
Bridget McAnallen, Cormac’s mother and director of the Cormac Trust, said: “We are delighted that a cure for Long QT Syndrome, one of the most prevalent types of SADS, is on the horizon. Cormac McAnallen died very suddenly from this condition which often has no symptoms and kills even the strongest and fittest young people without warning.
“This amazing and ground-breaking genetic research which involves North-South co-operation is, I believe, the first research to envisage a cure for this shocking condition, which not only can kill young people, but can be passed on and cause death in successive generations and devastate families.”
Funding from the Cormac Trust will support stem cell research to investigate causes and potential cures for Long QT Syndrome (LQTS).
Dr Terence Prendiville, Clinical Paediatric Cardiologist at the National Children’s Research Centre, said that LQTS impacts 160 families a year in Ireland.
“This is often the first time a family comes to medical attention and the condition may affect up to half of close relatives, unbeknownst to them,” said Dr Prendiville.
“Our research allows us for the first time to study heart cells – from someone who is alive or from someone who has died – to try and discover the cause of death, if unknown, and to develop genetic cures that will be the treatment of the future.”
NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute REMEDI has enrolled 20 patients into a programme analysing heart cells and causes of death.
REMEDI is researching stem cell technology, working with the Centre for Cell Manufacturing to develop treatments for cardiac conditions associated with sudden death.
They have generated a biobank of cells created by taking skin biopsies and converting the cells to become any cell type in the body.
The new technology — known as induced pluripotent stem cells or iPSCs — are cells that are derived from skin or blood cells that have been reprogrammed to be able to give rise to different types of cells.
It means that they can potentially produce any type of cell or tissue that the body needs to repair itself and enables the development of stem cell therapies.
The research group includes Dr Terence Prendiville, Clinical Paediatric Cardiologist at the National Children’s Research Centre, based at the Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Professor Tim O’Brien and Sanbing Shen, Director of the Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC) programme at NUI Galway.
Professor Tim O’Brien, Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Consultant Endocrinologist at Galway University Hospitals and Director of REMEDI, said: “We greatly appreciate the support from The Cormac Trust which enables research into the mechanism of disease and also discovery of new treatments using technology which allows researchers to grow heart cells in the laboratory.”