A graduate of the National University of Ireland at Galway, Ireland with a BSc Hons (1st) and a PhD in Biochemistry, postdoctoral experience at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA and holder of academic faculty positions at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland and Ulster University, Professor Anthony McHale is currently Professor of Medical Biotechnology with the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Ulster.
With over 100 scientific publications and a number of granted patents (EU and USA), Professor McHale’s interests lie more in applied aspects of pharmacology and biomedical sciences in general.
Studies have involved characterisation of the effects of physical stimuli on living tissues and in particular, exploiting those effects for drug/gene delivery in the treatment of cancer and in aspects relating to tissue regeneration
In the area of drug delivery and its application to the treatment of cancer Professor McHale is using ultrasound as a stimulus or trigger to enable more specific therapeutic approaches that circumvent many of the adverse effects associated with the use of conventional cancer chemotherapeutic drugs.
This area has recently expanded to include a therapeutic aspect that is closely related to photodynamic therapy (PDT) where light is replaced by ultrasound as the stimulus and this is known as sonodynamic therapy (SDT).The latter offers the advantage over existing PDT-based approaches of being able to target tumours that are anatomically less accessible.
In another aspect relating to the use of ultrasound he is examining the possibility of using microbubbles, together with ultrasound as a non-invasive means of triggering delivery of drugs and genes to specific sites in the body. Microbubbles are employed as ultrasound contrast agents in medicine and these can be ‘tuned’ to respond to ultrasound in a variety of ways. If the response is catastrophic (at the microscopic level), this can result in transient permeabilisation of cell membranes and this, in turn, can be exploited to deliver drugs and genes into cells at a specific target site (e.g. a tumour). From a cancer chemotherapy drug perspective, if that drug can enter a target cell more efficiently, then the action of that drug may be enhanced. Such an approach can also address resistance to cancer chemotherapeutic drugs by overcoming efflux mechanisms.
In addition to exploiting ultrasound and microbubbles for drug delivery, Professor McHale has recently demonstrated that the non-invasive nature of ultrasound can trigger gene transfer into mammalian cells that are entrapped within 3-D matrices. He is currently working on the exploitation of this discovery in the area of bone regeneration with potential application in the treatment of non-union fracture.
Department of Education for Northern Ireland.