I graduated from University College Dublin (UCD) in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacology. I undertook a PhD in pharmacology under the supervision of Prof. Alan Keenan where I evaluated the potential of novel microparticle systems to act as local drug delivery vehicles for treatment of in-stent restenosis (2002-2006). After my PhD was completed I moved to the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) to take up my first postdoctoral fellowship position (2006-2009) under the mentorship of Dr Muredach Reilly and Dr Daniel Rader who have world-renowned expertise in the area of lipid metabolism and in particular high-density lipoprotein (HDL) biology. HDL particles play an essential role in facilitating cholesterol efflux from peripheral cells, including lipid lipid-laden foam cells in atherosclerotic lesions, and deliver this cholesterol back to the liver for elimination in the faeces in a process known as reverse cholesterol transport (RCT). At Upenn my main project was focussed on establishing the impact of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-evoked inflammation on the efflux capacity of HDL particles (termed HDL function) and also on the subsequent steps of RCT. We demonstrated that inflammation reduces HDL function and markedly impaired movement of cholesterol through the liver to bile and faeces, results which were published in Circulation. These studies highlighted a mechanism by which chronic inflammation may enhance cardiovascular risk. Chronic inflammation is a classic hallmark of obesity and I developed a specific interest in understanding how inflammation affects adipocyte functionality and insulin resistance. I demonstrated the IFNg markedly impaired adipogenesis via activation of STAT1 in human cell lines, results published in JBC. I decided at this point to take up a second postdoctoral position with Prof. Helen Roche in UCD (2009-2011) where I was the senior investigator on an SFI funded project establishing the role of IL-1 in the development of obesity-induced insulin resistance, results of which were published in diabetes. During this period I gained more expertise in the fields of nutrition and metabolism. I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship in 2012 and conduct my research in the Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research at UCD. The primary focus of research in this fellowship is to establish the mechanisms by which over-nutrition enhances cardiovascular disease risk. A key goal of this research is to establish the effects of the obesigenic environment on the capacity of macrophages to mediate cholesterol efflux to HDL particles. Furthermore the effects of obesity on RCT will be assessed in vivo by monitoring 3H-cholesterol movement from macrophages onto HDL particles and measuring uptake into liver, bile and elimination in the faeces. The obese phenotype will subsequently be manipulated by diet (replacement of saturated fat for monounsaturated fat) or anti-inflammatory regimens to improve metabolic health, but maintain equivalent obesity, and the effects on macrophage-faeces RCT will be monitored. These studies will allow us disentangle effects of diet from effects attributable to the obese phenotype on HDL function and lipid metabolism and will provide greater understanding of the link between diet-obesity and cardiovascular health.
- Postdoctoral ResearcherUniversity of Pennsylvania2 Jan 2006 - 31 Dec 2008
- Senior Postdoctoral ResearcherUniversity College Dublin1 Jan 2009 - 29 Feb 2012
- Wellcome Trust Research Career Development FellowUniversity College Dublin, School of Medicine, Dublin, Ireland1 Mar 2012 - 16 Jun 2018
- Assistant ProfessorUniversity College Dublin, School of Medicine, Dublin, Ireland1 Nov 2014
- BScUniversity College Dublin
- PhDUniversity College Dublin
- Prof Cert University Teaching & LearningUniversity College Dublin