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MSSI Researcher Awarded €1.5 Million to Investigate InnovativeTherapies for Osteoporosis

Dr David Hoey Dr David Hoey

Pictured Here: Dr David Hoey  at the Material and Surface Science Institute, UL.

Dr. Hoey who was recently appointed by the Mechanical, Aeronautical and Biomedical Engineering Department and who’s research is based at the Material and Surface Science Institute (MSSI) at UL, focuses on determining how physical loading, such as walking and running around, helps to maintain a healthy skeleton. Current treatments for osteoporosis attempt to stop bone loss but have been linked to severe side effects. However, we know that exercise can promote a healthy skeleton through bone formation.

Dr Hoey explains; “The human skeleton contains stem cells, residing within our bones. My research will focus on the stem cell primary cilium, which is an antennae-like structure that extends from the surface of these cells. This ‘antenna’ is required for stem cells to sense a physical load enabling the cell to change into a bone-forming cell and replace the lost bone. Understanding how this process works will enable us to mimic the beneficial effect of physical loading using newly developed drugs and therapeutics and will lead to innovative treatments for bone-loss diseases, such as osteoporosis.”

Dr Mary Shire, Vice President Research, University of Limerick welcomed the announcement; “This is a huge accolade for any young researcher and this year, Dr Hoey is one of only two Irish-based researchers to receive an ERC starting grant. The University of Limerick research community is dynamic, innovative and pioneering and the establishment of a team in the field of bone-loss research will no doubt bring vital medical developments for patients and patient care in the future.”

University of Limerick is one of two Irish institutions to receive this ERC award and have faced tough competition for these grants as the call attracted 3,329 proposals in total which represents a 50% overall rise in demand for the grants this year.  The call was also the last under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). However new calls are foreseen under Horizon 2020 and a major increase in funding levels are expected for the ERC.

Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "The European Research Council has changed the research landscape for young talent, and raised the level of science across Europe. It is funding blue-sky research that is advancing human knowledge, but also producing breakthroughs that could make their way into our daily lives in future.  The ERC is now an established label of excellence, and it will go from strength to strength under Horizon 2020."