All paediatriac surgical and cardiac catheterisation cases for the island of Ireland are now performed at the Children’s Heart Centre at OLCHC, in line with the development of an all island congenital heart disease service. New techniques and technologies have ensured improved survival rates for children with complex cardiac conditions, and research in this field continues to push the boundaries to ensure that these children survive and thrive. One in 100 children in Ireland has a structural defect of the heart. The team at OLCHC, with their academic partners both in Ireland and abroad, engage in cutting edge research. Projects range from 3D printing models of specific babies’ hearts that allow surgeons to plan their surgery, to growing beating cardiomyocytes in a petri dish, to studying family groups where sudden cardiac death has occurred. New studies on heart stents that can biodegrade, or ‘grow’ with the child are some of the exciting research areas in paediatric cardiology taking place through NCRC funding supports.
The related field of Vascular Biology examines haemostasis, thrombosis, platelet biology, vascular inflammation and blood vessel development. The Irish Centre for Vascular Biology at RCSI was recently launched, and, as many diseases of childhood have a vascular disease dimension to them, NCRC has included Vascular Biology in its priority areas to support new research groups in this area. Recently funding in the field of Vascular Biology has been awarded to examine the microvasculature in the intestine in children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and, through the NCRC Malaria Research Consortium, a study examining clotting mechanisms in cerebral malaria. This complication of malaria is associated with a high mortality rate, and globally, children under 5 represent 70% of dealths annualy from malaria.