‘Like a sci-fi novel’ – Irish scientist praised for project to restore lost memories

A leading Irish scientist has been praised for attempting to recover lost memories in an ambitious project that has been described as resembling a ‘science fiction novel’.

n event at Trinity College Dublin celebrated Dr Tomás Ryan, who received the prestigious Lister Institute Research Prize, worth £250,000 (€287,000) in 2020, but saw the awards ceremony price delayed for two years due to the pandemic.

The Science Award is unique in that it imposes no conditions or objectives on its recipients. Dr Ryan said this meant the institute was really promoting innovation and “blue sky research” where real-world applications may not be immediately apparent.

Dr. Ryan’s lab in Trinity’s Biomedical Sciences building studies if and how it might be possible to recover memories lost before the age of three, otherwise known as childhood amnesia. If successful, the research could have major developments for the study of dementia and autism.

The project was described by the institute as proof of “truly remarkable things that can be done” through science.

“I’m actually thrilled with the quality and precociousness of Tomás’ science,” said Alex Markham, president of the Lister Institute, adding that this is one of the most exciting projects that he has been working on. institute had defended.

The Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine has been described as one of the cornerstones of medical research in Britain and Ireland.

Dr Ryan is the first Irish scientist from an Irish university to receive his award. This despite the fact that the Lister Institute arguably owes its very existence to a famous Irish family with an unlikely connection to science.

A large gift from the Guinness family in the late 1800s enabled the newly founded Lister Institute to pay for its building, staff, and initial research grants.

Edward Cecil Guinness, once the richest man in Ireland, was the owner of the Guinness Brewery when the Lister Institute was established.

One morning in 1896, a rabid dog bit Jim Jackson, one of Guinness’ stable men on the family estate in Suffolk. Guinness was frustrated that Jackson had to travel all the way to Paris for a rabies shot, as there was no treatment on the islands of Ireland or Britain.

The Guinness Empire was already interested in science, having become the first brewery in the world to hire a chemist. In 1896, Guinness had hired a scientist at an experimental brewery driven by anxieties that the family should protect and perfect the formula for its now stout. Around the same time, Guinness also purchased its first microscope.

Guinness had previously donated to an appeal by the Lister Institute, but driven by shock at the lack of access to a rabies vaccine, sent a check in 1898 for the modern equivalent of $35 million. euros of his personal fortune at the Lister Institute. , which helped get the fledgling project off the ground.

The only condition attached to the donation was that a member of the Guinness family be given a seat on the Lister’s board. Rory Guinness, the fifth of the Guinness generation to hold the position, said he believed his family’s investment in the Lister Institute was “one of the most inspired movements in corporate social responsibility that we’ve ever seen.” ‘had never heard of in the 1800s’.

The Lister Institute, which has produced a number of Nobel Prize-winning scientists, has continued to have a long history of cutting-edge biomedical developments. Its scientists helped develop new ways to treat tetanus and gangrene in World War I soldiers, and it was at the forefront of research into safe blood transfusions.

He conducted pioneering research in immunology, and the institute’s breakthrough development of the smallpox vaccine directly led to the near global eradication of the disease. Its fellowship program, launched in 1982, helped discover DNA fingerprinting – a development that radically changed forensics for the better.

Irene B. Bowles