Increase in life expectancy sees more living with chronic illness
Irish people are living an average of 15 years longer compared to the 1970s - leading to a rise in chronic illnesses.
As a result, a research centre here is leading the way in new treatments for a range of chronic illnesses, including Parkinson's disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders.
Dr Abhay Pandit of the Cúram centre at NUI, Galway said they were finding new ways to help people live their longer lives with less suffering.
"If you look at Irish numbers for life expectancy they have increased phenomenally. Today, living to your 80s would be the norm when just 30 or 40 years ago that expectancy was just 60 to 65 at the most," he said.
"But the prolonging of life creates different issues. The work we do in Cúram is to make life easier for people suffering from chronic illness," he added.
This ranges from treatments for diabetes problems, including limb amputation, to heart issues or hip transplants.
"If you got an implant in your 50s and suddenly you live to 80, that implant has to last that long. The question becomes, 'do we put that patient back on the table again at 85 for another implant?'
"Instead, we are focusing on making medical devices last longer,"said Dr Pandit.
The projects the centre is focusing on include making better heart valves, longer-lasting electrodes for a range of neurodegenerative illnesses, and better hip implants.
It is now gearing up to begin clinical trials for a range of new treatments for chronic illnesses in the next two to three years.
He said the Galway centre was "ahead of the game" because it partners with industry, allowing it to fast-track a lot of therapies.
While some of the new treatments may take 15 to 20 years to complete, others like long-lasting electrodes could be available in the next three to four years, according to Dr Pandit.