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

Research activities of the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics

Prof. Jochen Prehn, Head, Chairman of Department

Jochen Prehn

Jochen Prehn has been Professor and Chairman, of the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics, at the RCSI since 2003. He was the first recipient of a Science Foundation Ireland Research Professorship award. During his career Prof. Prehn has been awarded research funding exceeding €10m. He has published 117 peer reviewed papers and has been an invited speaker at over 70 conferences and workshops.

Prof. Prehn has been supervising undergraduates in physiology, pharmacology and neuroscience for over 15 years. I have also given extensive lectures to medicine and pharmacy students. Prof. Jochen Prehn leads a research group focusing on cell death mechanisms and their implication for human disease. Apoptosis is critical for the elimination of unwanted cells during development. Defects in apoptosis pathways have been implicated in neurodegenerative, ischemic and malignant disorders.

His group focuses on the Bcl-2 family of proteins, which contain both pro- and anti-apoptotic proteins and regulate the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis. The group investigates the role of BH3 only proteins in acute and chronic neurodegeneration, diabetes mellitus, and ER stress, as well as new target structures for the treatment of cancer, using both in vitro and in vivo models of human disease. A second major research interest lies in real-time imaging of cell death signals in neurons and cancer cells, employing confocal GFP and FRET techniques., and their interaction with cellular bioenergetics. This research includes the development of computational approaches to understand and overcome apoptosis sensitivity and resistance and cellular bioenergetics at a systems level. All Prof. Prehn's research interests and achievements can be viewed on the research page.


Prof. Jim Docherty, Professor of Physiology 

Prof. Docherty's main areas of research interest are cardiovascular and autonomic physiology and pharmacology, together with an interest in portal hypertension. Current studies include: The adverse peripheral actions of amphetamine-derivative drugs of abuse; the pathophysiology of portal hypertension in terms of drugs that prevent formation of/regress porto-systemic shunts (in collaboration with Prof. P.A. McCormick, St Vincent's Hospital); the role of innervation in determining receptor subtype expression in smooth muscle.

Prof.Docherty has published more than 140 full papers and book chapters, of which more than 120 are accessible in PubMed.

A total of 25 postgraduates have received MSc/PhD degrees in Prof. Docherty's laboratory. He has been external examiner (PhD) in a number of universities including: Queen's Belfast, Ulster, Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian, Bradford, London, Nancy, Madrid, Melbourne, RMIT Melbourne. He has been External Examiner (taught courses): 2nd MB, University of Glasgow, 2000-2004; RCS (England), Physiology 2000; University of Ulster MSc Biomedical Sciences, 1993-1996. He was Conway Review Lecturer of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Ireland in 1992. He is currently Convener of the Autonomic Section, British Pharmacological Society; Associate Editor, Pharmacology & Therapeutics; Editorial Board, Autonomic & Autacoid Pharmacology.


Prof. Aidan Bradford, Professor of Physiology

Aidan Bradford

Prof. Aidan Bradford has BSc, MSc and PhD degrees in Physiology from the NUI and a Diploma in Statistics from Trinity College Dublin. He joined the RCSI following lectureships in Physiology with St Lucia Health Sciences University and with Ross University, Dominica, West Indies.

He is the Junior Cycle 1 Neuromuscular Module coordinator and Physiotherapy course coordinator for Physiology. He was awarded the inaugural RCSI President's prize for excellence in teaching in the Junior Cycle in 2009. He also teaches in the Graduate Entry Programme, in the Medical University Bahrain and gives lectures and practicals for the course in Pharmacy. He teaches and examines also in a variety of courses for postgraduate nurses and for the MRCSI and FCA examinations. He is the Physiology MCQ coordinator for the Primary Fellowship in Anaesthesia and he contributes to revision courses for the USMLE.

Prof. Bradford’s research is mainly in cardiorespiratory control mechanisms with particular interest in intermittent hypoxia and sleep apnoea. His laboratory uses integrated in vivo physiological experimentation as well as in vitro techniques. He has obtained research funding totaling millions of euro from the Wellcome Trust, Physiological Society, HRB, RCSI Research Committee, RCSI/Charitable Infirmary Charitable Trust, British Council, HEA and the EU.

He has published 56 full peer-reviewed papers, eight book chapters and more than 120 abstracts. He has supervised to completion 6 PhD students, one MSc student, seven summer students and two postdoctoral researchers. He is a referee for the Journal of Physiology, Experimental Physiology, Respiration Physiology and Neurobiology, Journal of Applied Physiology, European Respiratory Journal, Life Sciences, Respiration, Experimental Gerontology, Chest, British Journal of Pharmacology, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise and Obesity Research.

He was a Member of Council, Biomedical Sciences Section, Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland, 1993-2000, the Secretary, Biomedical Sciences Section, Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland, 1997-2000 and a Member of General Council, Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland, 1997-2000. He was a member of the Expert Evaluators Panel, EU Fifth Framework, Brussels, 1999, the HRB Neurosciences Project Grant Committee, 2001-2004, the Enterprise Ireland Advanced Technologies Research Programme evaluators panel, 2001-2003 and Commercialisation Fund Technology Development Phase 2003 evaluators panel. He was a National Science Foundation, USA grant reviewer, 2003, a reviewer for the Children's Research Foundation of South Australia 2009, and a reviewer for the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong, 2009 and 2010. He acted as a consultant for the Caudwell Extreme Everest expedition that reached the summit of Everest in May 2007. He was a referee for the Permanent Committee for Academic Promotion, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, December 2009 and February 2010.

He was appointed to the Doctoral Studies Panel, College of Life Sciences, Graduate School Board, UCD, October 2009 and was voted in as President of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland, Biomedical Sciences Section, October 2009.Prof. Bradford full research profile can be accessed on his research page.


Prof. David Henshall, Professor of Physiology 

David Henshall

Dr Henshall is an Associate Professor Molecular Physiology & Neuroscience. To date, he has authored 65 papers and three book chapters.

Current support is from SFI, HRB, IRCSET and NIH (USA). David Henshall's research aims: To understand the gene-based regulation of neuronal cell death and hippocampal remodelling in epilepsy, and the influence of different seizure types. Particular focus is on characterising the role of programmed (apoptotic) cell death pathways which are triggered by seizures, and evaluating their functional significance for post-injury brain remodeling and value as therapeutic targets.

Studies utilise in vitro and in vivo experimental models, along with molecular biology, genomics/proteomics and imaging techniques. Combined translational neuroscience work using human brain material supports the induction of these complex signalling pathways after seizures in patient brain. Currently funded projects are investigating the role of apoptosis and stress-pathway associated genes in the molecular pathogenesis of brain injury in epilepsy neurobiology of 14-3-3 proteins, genomics/proteomics of nerve injury and recovery, axon guidance genes in seizure susceptibility and epileptogenesis.

Prof. Henshall research portfolio can be viewed on his research page.


Prof. Kevin McGuigan, Senior Lecturer 

Kevin McGuigan

In 1991, Dr McGuigan was appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Physics in RCSI. Since then, Dr McGuigan has changed the focus of his research and is now the Principal Investigator leading the Solar Disinfection Research Group at the RCSI.

This group operates a specialised water research laboratory which develops new technologies for the optical inactivation of waterborne and/or medically relevant microbiological pathogen.Working closely with the Departments of Epidemiology and International Health, this group coordinates several multi-centre, international research programmes examining the health impact of appropriate technology interventions against waterborne disease in developing countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, S. Africa and Cambodia funded by the EU and the Irish Government.

Dr McGuigan is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and was Chair of the Institute of Physics in Ireland for the period 2011-2013. He has supervised to completion six PhD and three MSc projects and has published over 50 refereed articles in peer-reviewed journals. Dr McGuigan's research activities can be viewed on his research page.


Dr Markus Rehm, Research Lecturer 

Markus Rehm

Dr Rehm is a tenured Research Lecturer in Physiology and Biophysics. His experimental Systems Biology group is part of the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics.

His interdisciplinary team covers expertise in Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Imaging, and Computational Modelling. His group has established and utilised quantitative biochemistry and confocal and FRET-based imaging systems in combination with cell biological methods to monitor key processes during apoptosis execution in human cancer cells.

This research in combination with complex computational systems analyses provides functional insight into cell fate decisions and the mechanisms of tumour cell resistance. Dr Rehms research and publications can be seen on his research page.


Dr Brona Murphy, SFI Stokes Lecturer 

Brona Murphy

Dr Brona Murphy is an SFI Stokes Lecturer in the Department of Physiology. In 2005, Dr Murphy was awarded a Post Doctoral Research Fellowship from the Health Research Board to study the regulation of apoptotic pathways in the epileptic brain. This research was conducted between laboratories in the RCSI and the Dow Neurobiology Lab, Legacy Research Centre, Portland, Oregon, USA.

Aside from her research, Dr Murphy was also the Research Programme Coordinator for the Summer Programme in Undergraduate Research (a Science Foundation Ireland UREKA site at RCSI) in 2006/2007.

Dr Murphy's current research focus is on the activation of apoptotic cascades within human gliomas. Her research is funded by grants from the RCSI, HRB and SFI.


Dr Annette Byrne, Senior Lecturer

Annette Byrne

In 2008, Dr Annette Byrne was appointed as Lecturer and Principal Investigator, in the Department of Physiology & Medical Physics. Since taking up her position in the department she received funding as an investigator in Science Foundation Ireland Strategic Research Cluster ‘Molecular Targeted Cancer Therapeutics’.

Her research is currently funded by grants supported by Science Foundation Ireland. Her research interests are: In vivo Cancer Models, Multi Modality in vivo molecular imaging, Pre-clinical drug development (oncology) Dr Byrne’s full research profile can be viewed on her research page.


Dr Heiko Duessmann, Director of Molecular Imaging and Biophysics 

Heiko Duessmann

Dr Heiko Düssmann has been a Director of Molecular Imaging in the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics, RCSI since December 2003.

Dr Düssmann is currently involved in investigating neuronal cell death signalling and the mitochondrial signalling pathway of apoptosis in cancer cells in research projects funded by HRB, SFI and HEA. The generous funding allows the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics to host state-of-the-art live cell imaging equipment under Dr Düssmann’s direction.

Driven by the need for continuous improvement of live cell imaging methods he is a Principal Investigator in a NBIPI funded project to develop a monitoring system for live cell imaging.


Dr Hans Georg Koenig, Lecturer 

Hans Koenig

Dr Hans Georg Koenig joined the Department as Senior Post-Doctoral researcher in 2005. Dr Koenig's research focuses are mainly on survival versus cell death signalling pathways in neurons and neural progenitor cells; the influence of excitotoxic events, or endogenous factors, like cytokines of the TGF-ß superfamily, on the events that culminate in the activation of NF-?B, a pivotal transcription factor in this context; the regulation of NF-kappaB signal transduction often constitutes an important mechanistical switch at the intersection of cellular survival, cell death and differentiation; and the regulation of proteins of the NF-kappaB cascade and their molecular interactions have profound impacts on the pathophysiology of many neurodegenerative diseases, stroke and also developmental disorders of the nervous system.


Dr Heinrich Huber, Adjunct Senior Lecturer 

Heinrich Huber

Dr Heinrich Huber commenced his secondment as a software engineer and project manager in Systems Biology and Bioinformatics at RCSI in 2004. He is engaged as a PI for the National Biophotonics Platform (NBIP) and has been entitled as Senior Research Fellow at RCSI from July 2008. In addition to his credentials in Systems Biology (publications in EMBO J, Bioinformatics and J Neurosci), he holds a publication record in Computational Physics and Systems Engineering in Telecommunication.

His research interest focuses on computational bioengineering comprising systems biology in apoptosis and neuroscience (pathway analysis of signalling and physiologic pathways); industrial workflow and data processing systems (e.g. automated microscopy – NBIP) as well as application of ICT (information and communication) methods in lab automation (process analytic technology). Website:


Dr Caoimhin Concannon, Research Lecturer

Caoimh Concannon

Dr Caoimhin Concannon has been working in his current position as Research Lecturer under Prof. Jochen Prehn since late 2008.

His main scientific interests involve investigating the molecular mechanisms of stress induced cell death. In particular, he is interested in the interplay between cell death and cytoprotective pathways and how these can be modulated in diseases such as colon cancer.


Dr David Hughes, Senior Research Fellow 

Dr David Hughes joined RCSI in October 2011. His current research focuses on cancer genetic, nutritional, and microbial epidemiology and genetic biomarkers for colorectal cancer (CRC). He received his BSc Biochemistry degree from the University of Leeds in 1990. His first research post in 1991-1992 was as a research assistant to Prof. John Hardy at St Mary’s Medical School, Imperial College London (genetics of Alzheimer Disease). During this time, the group confirmed that mutations in the amyloid precursor protein gene (APP) gene can cause AD, the first gene linked with this disorder.

He then did his PhD in Medical Genetics at Queen’s University Belfast (awarded 1996). His thesis work involved mutation characterisation and haplotype analysis of the CFTR gene, variants of which may cause cystic fibrosis (CF). Dr Hughes’s first postdoctoral positions involved a short fellowship studying atypical cases of CF at the Institute for Human Genetics in Hanover Medical School, Germany and then a two-year post (1998-2000) to begin functional genomic projects on the model nematode, C. Elegans as part of the post-sequencing efforts of the C. Elegans genome in the group of Prof John Sulston at the Sanger Institute, Cambridge, England.

From 2000-2006 he was employed as a scientist at the World Health Organization’s cancer research headquarters (the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France). His work there primarily concerned the genetic epidemiology of breast cancer (BC). As part of this work, the first confirmed genetic modifiers of the BRCA genes and BC susceptibility in general were located. Dr Hughes returned to Ireland in 2007 where he worked as a research fellow at Trinity College Dublin (Department of Clinical Medicine) until his move to the RCSI. He was instrumental is setting up the CRC genetic research projects at the AMNCH Trinity site. Dr Hughes has had extensive experience in teaching and supervising MSc, PhD and MD students, post-docs, and research assistants. He has frequently been invited to speak at various research institutes and international conferences, and has had over 40 peer reviewed research articles published to date.Website: