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Saoirse Casey-Power is a final year PhD candidate within the Ocular Therapeutics Research Group in the Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre, who graduated with first-class honours from the BSc (Hons) in Pharmaceutical Science in SETU in 2019. Having fallen in love with research during her final year undergraduate research project, Saoirse went on to pursue a PhD in the development of nano-based formulations for the treatment of age-related ocular diseases.

The PhD research project, entitled 'The development of NAD+-laden polyelectrolyte complex nanoformulations for the preventative treatment of age-related neurodegenerative ocular diseases', is funded by the SETU PhD Scholarship Programme. Saoirse is supervised by Dr Laurence Fitzhenry (PMBRC) AND co-supervised by Dr Richie Ryan (PMBRC), Dr Gautam Behl (PMBRC), Dr Peter McLoughlin (PMBRC) and Dr Mark Bryne (Biomedical Engineering Department, Rowan-Virtua School of Translational Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, New Jersey).

A direct link exists between the pathogeneses of several neurodegenerative ocular diseases (age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma etc.) and the ageing process: the progressive loss of cellular homeostasis via a decline in intracellular NAD+ concentration. An imbalance in the activities of NAD+ synthesising and NAD+ consuming enzymes during the ageing process results in the impairment of sirtuin proteins responsible for mitochondrial function and biogenesis and NAD+ regeneration.  Hyperexpression of secondary enzymes such as CD-38 also occurs as a result of progressive NAD+ decline, leading to excessive activation of inflammatory pathways. Such disruption to cellular homeostasis, resulting in NAD+ decline, ultimately results in irreversible cellular damage and increased visual impairment.

This research project aims to develop and characterise a highly biocompatible nanomaterial formulation composed of natural polyelectrolyte biomaterials for the intraocular delivery of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) as a means of upregulating the processes responsible for cellular longevity and minimising the deleterious effects of ageing on ocular health either before or at the early onset of disease pathogenesis. Experimental work to date has focused on the physiochemical characterisation of NAD+-laden polyelectrolyte complexes with future studies focusing on formulation modifcation to further control the release of NAD+ in vitro. In vitro and ex vivo cellular studies will be conducted to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the nanoformulation in conditions mimicking that of the ocular environment.




Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

Bachelors Degree, BSc. (Hons) in Pharmaceutical Science

01 Sep 201531 May 2019

Award Date: 01 Nov 2019

External positions

Early Stage Researcher Committee Member, Retina Network Ireland Advisory Committee

30 Mar 2021 → …

Co-Chair and Department of Science Representative, Research Postgradaute Forum

01 Oct 2019 → …


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