Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Wednesday, 26th March 2008-RCSI Research Day Reveals Killer Smile

26 March 2008

Poor dental hygiene can lead to heart disease according to research presented at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI)’s annual Research Day.

Lead researcher Dr. Steve Kerrigan and his team from the School of Pharmacy and the Department of Molecular Cellular Therapeutics at RCSI are investigating how oral bacteria stick to human blood platelets and cause them to clot or clump together within blood vessels.


PHd student Mr. Peter Mauer with Dr. Anthony Cummins, Department of General Practice, RCSI.

According to the Health Research Board (HRB) funded study, bleeding gums result in an open blood vessel, allowing oral bacteria to gain entry to the blood stream. When the oral bacteria gain entry to the blood stream they encounter blood clotting cells called platelets, which causes them to stick together and partially block the inside of the blood vessel. This can prevent the blood flow back to the heart and heightens the risk of heart attack.


Pictured at the RCSI Research Day are Mr. Cecil Liu, 3rd year Medicine and Ms. Yen Ying Lee, fourth year Pharmacy.

Dr. Kerrigan said “The mouth is probably the dirtiest place in the human body, with over 500 different species of bacteria. We have recently identified two receptors (proteins) on oral bacteria that we believe play a major role in recognising and sticking to platelets. The results of the study suggest that we have identified some of the mechanisms oral bacteria use to inappropriately clot or clump platelets in the blood vessels.”


Professor Michael Mendelsohn, Tufts Medical Centre who delivered the guest lecture at the annual Research Day, held at RCSI.

He continued “By understanding the exact mechanism through which bacteria stick to platelets and cause them to clump together we can gain better insights for the development of novel therapies to treat this disease. However, all this can be avoided with proper dental hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly.”  

RCSI’s annual Research Day is an important date in the RCSI calendar providing its scientists with the opportunity to showcase their most recent research findings. As one of Ireland ’s premier research institutions RCSI is internationally recognised for both education and research and is dedicated to improving human health through endeavour, innovation and collaboration in education, research and service.


Pictured at the RCSI Research Day are Dr. Dermot Cox, Department of Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics (MCT), RCSI and Ms. Roisin Moriarty, MCT PhD student at RCSI.

Some of the highlights from the 2008 RCSI Research Day include:

- Medication Ineffective on Some Patients at Risk of Heart Attacks. 

Aspirin and Plavix reduce the stickiness of blood by blocking the function of cells in the blood stream, called platelets. These medications are routinely used to prevent heart attacks; however they are ineffective in some patients. Current tests measuring the effects of these medications have major limitations. Scientists and doctors at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics (MCT) in RCSI have developed a new test, which measures the effect of these medications as well as measuring increased platelet stickiness. Increased platelet stickiness, increases the risk of developing heart attacks. Over 200 heart disease patients taking both of these medications were studied. Approximately 30 percent still had increased platelet stickiness despite taking both of these medications. The findings concluded that more widespread use of this new test could guide the prevention of heart attacks in these high-risk patients.


Pictured from l to r are Dr. Jane Holland, RCSI Anatomy Department; Ms. Catherine O'Neill, RCSI Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery and Dr. Christina Quinlan, Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery and Department of Population and Health Sciences, RCSI.


- Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Continues to Carry a High Mortality  

The timelines and outcomes of victims of cardiac arrests taken to the Emergency Department of Connolly Hospital from January to December 2007 were studied by researchers at the Department of Clinical Cardiology, Connolly Hospital , Blanchardstown. Despite increased awareness of sudden cardiac death in the community, and rapid ambulance arrival on the scene, the findings revealed that mortality among victims remains high, with only three in one hundred cardiac arrest victims having a favourable outcome (surviving to discharge from hospital). The study, also found that only 20 per cent of patients received by-stander Basic Life Support (BLS). The study recommends increased public education on BLS, including the introduction of a programme for schoolchildren.  


Dr Joesph Barnes and Dr Mary Clarke, the recipient of the Best Oral Presentation by Early Career Investigator Barnes Medal Award.

- Effects of immigration on the Pattern of HIV Infection in Dublin

This research, carried out by the Department of International Health and Tropical Disease, RCSI and Beaumont Hospital and the UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, examined the effects of immigration on the pattern of HIV infection in Dublin. One hundred and twenty five patients took part in this study, of which fifty-one per cent were Irish born. Seventy-seven had at least one documented reason for testing due to symptoms of HIV, perceived risky sexual behaviour and drug use, while detection through antenatal screening was almost exclusively in the migrant group. The findings showed a significant difference in various aspects of the HIV epidemic between Irish-born and migrant groups.


Professor Brian Harvey, RCSI Director of Research; Ms Kristl Dorschner, who was presented with the Harry O'Flanagan award for excellence in undergraduate research and Ms Louise Sherwin, RCSI Alumni Office. The prize was awarded by Dr Yacoob Kadwa who graduated from RCSI in 1965.