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UCD researcher to become first Irish researcher to deliver Cournand lecture in Society’s 25-year history

Monday, 23 March, 2015 

Dr Silke Ryan.

Dr Silke Ryan.

Dr Silke Ryan, a University College Dublin medical researcher, will deliver the prestigious Cournand lecture, to an expected audience of 20,000, at the forthcoming international congress of the European Respiratory Society (ERS).

The ERS Congress, the largest annual respiratory meeting in the world, takes place this year in Amsterdam, the Netherlands from 26-29 September.
Dr Ryan is a Consultant in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at St. Vincent's University Hospital and a Health Research Board-funded research fellow in the UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science at the UCD Conway Institute.

She is the first researcher from Ireland honoured by the Society to deliver the flagship lecture at its international congress in its 25-year history.

Dr Ryan was selected by the Society based on the impact of her research over the last decade. Her research has resulted in a better understanding of the mechanisms associated with the development of various cardiovascular complications, such as high blood pressure, heart attacks or stroke, in obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

OSA is a common disease affecting at least 5% of middle-aged adults. It is characterised by frequent breathing pauses during sleep leading to sudden drops in the blood oxygen level resulting in subconscious awakenings in order to restore the oxygen level. In severe cases these events can occur several hundred times during the night.

Using a truly bench-to-bedside approach, Dr Ryan’s research has identified that the frequent oxygen fluctuations (termed intermittent hypoxia) preferentially activate inflammatory pathways known to promote atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries), and these events are likely key mechanisms of cardiovascular disease processes in OSA.

Further understanding of these mechanisms may lead to the identification of therapeutic targets for heart diseases associated with OSA and for other disorders associated with intermittent hypoxia.

Dr Ryan’s research has been published in high-impact journals such as Circulation, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, and Thorax, and is widely cited.

On being selected to deliver the Cournand lecture, Dr Silke Ryan said, “Receiving this award by the European Respiratory Society is a tremendous honour and will further motivate me to continue my research in this exiting field of respiratory medicine. I would like to thank my mentors and colleagues from University College Dublin and St. Vincent’s University Hospital, especially Professor Cormac Taylor and Professor Walter McNicholas, for without their strong support this award would not have been possible.”

Professor Orla Feely, Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact, UCD, said, “I would like to congratulate Dr Silke Ryan on being honoured by the European Respiratory Society to deliver the prestigious Cournand Lecture at its forthcoming 2015 international congress.”

“Her selection, the first ever of a researcher from Ireland, is based upon the impact of her world class and highly-cited research performed at UCD and St. Vincent's University Hospital. Her research has shed significant insight into the mechanisms underpinning cardiovascular diseases associated with obstructive sleep apnoea and these insights may lead to the development of therapies to treat and improve the lives of people with these diseases.”

ERS is a leading international organisation bringing together scientists and healthcare professionals to promote lung health and combat lung disease.
Dr Ryan’s Cournand lecture, to be delivered on 27 September, is entitled, “Inflammatory pathway activation by intermittent hypoxia in Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.”