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Prof Emer McGrath Clinical Scientist.

With more people now living longer lives, dementia is becoming an increasingly important problem in society. Unfortunately by the time a person shows signs of dementia, irreversible brain injury has often already occurred and the opportunity for early disease-modifying treatment has been missed.

If we could identify people at high risk of developing dementia at an early stage, i.e. before the onset of memory problems,we would have the greatest opportunity to prevent this disease.
Professor Emer McGrath, HRB Clinician Scientist and Consultant Neurologist at the HRB-CRFGNUI Galway and Galway University Hospital,is currently leading a research programme to tackle this important problem, collaborating with researchers at Boston University’s Framingham Heart Study and the Centre for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseasesat University of Texas.

Prof Emer McGrath completed clinical training at Galway University Hospital and a PhD in Medicine (Clinical Epidemiology) at NUI Galway under the mentorship of Prof Martin O'Donnell. She completed specialist training in Neurology and Neuromuscular Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston and a postdoctoral research fellowship in Neurovascular cognitive disorders at the Framingham Heart Study, Boston University funded by an Alzheimer’s Association Clinician Scientist Fellowship. In 2018 she took up a faculty position at Harvard Medical School and Associate Neurologist post at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. She returned to Ireland in 2020 to take up her current position at NUI Galway and Galway University Hospital.

Prof McGrath and her team are measuring levels of protein in the blood (i.e. biomarkers) and determining whether these biomarkers are different in people with and without features of early stage dementia on specialised brain scans, and whether these biomarkers can predict who will develop dementia in the future. The results of these studies will be used to develop a simple risk score to calculate a person’s likelihood of developing dementia in the future, using both biomarkers (simple blood test) and clinical information(e.g.hypertension). Prof McGrath’s research is expected to have important public health benefits including, 1) identifying individuals at ‘high-risk’ of developing dementia, 2) tailoring approaches to treatment based on an individual’s biomarker signature, and 3) improving our ability to find new treatments for dementia by allowing better selection of individuals for clinical trials.

In the press- Prof McGrath has been awarded a Clinician Scientist Fellowship as part of the Health Research Board (HRB) €3.7 million investment in twelve new Health Research Fellowships. Prof McGrath was awarded €655,524 for her research into blood-based biomarkers for early detection of preclinical neurocognitive disorders.

In the press- Research Identifies Biomarkers that Could Improve Dementia Risk Prediction