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

Wednesday, 24th October 2007 - RCSI Medical Student Wins Award at Irish Healthcare Awards

24 October 2007

Dervla Connaughton, a fifth year medical student at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), was awarded first prize for her research into motor neuron degeneration at the Irish Healthcare Awards on Wednesday 24th October 2007. Dervla’s research on ‘The role of angiogenin in motor neuron degeneration’ won in the category for ‘Student Project of the Year’.


Pictured from l to r are Ms. Dervla Connaughton, fifth year med; Dr. Dairin Kieran, RCSI Department of Physiology and Mr. Dag Nettelend, fourth year med.

Dervla’s research found a possible course of treatment which may slow the course of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. This debilitating disease affects approximately 250 people every year in Ireland, with men being affected twice as often as women. There is currently no cure for the condition and it carries a life expectancy of approximately three to five years.

The findings showed that treating motor neurons with angiogenin, a small protein that is usually associated with tumour formation, protected against cell death. She also identified the cell survival pathway involved in mediating this neuroprotective effect.



Pictured from l to r are Ms. Dervla Connaughton and Mr. Dag Netteland.

Fourth year medical student Dag Netteland was also shortlisted for the award for his research into ALS. His project entitled ‘Investigating the role of angiogenin and the hypoxic response in motor neuron degeneration’ revealed that silencing angiogenin expression makes neurons more vulnerable to dying.

Both students performed their research projects in the RCSI Department of Physiology under the supervision of Dr. Dairin Kieran and Professor Jochen Prehn. Dervla was a HRB funded summer student in 2005, who returned to the lab as part of her student selected component in the spring of 2007. Dag was a SPUR summer student for ten weeks in the summer of 2006.

Dr. Kieran said “We are absolutely delighted to have both students work recognized in this way. They are both very hard working and talented students and thoroughly deserved to be considered for this award.”