University of Dundee

Route 3 – Ninewells Hospital

Start at the Mariner Drive car park. Walk up the path from the car park towards the W L Gore & Associates building.

1) W L Gore & Associates

Gore is a US-based company. Their famous Gore-Tex fabric is used here to make vascular grafts for the surgical repair of diseased and damaged blood vessels. 

Research Today:

Cardiovascular research is a large focus at the School of Medicine. For example, Chim Lang (pictured left) and his research group are interested in the mechanisms underlying cardiac complications of diabetes that is a burden to the patients, their carers and to the NHS. Professor Lang and his team take a multi-disciplinary approach working with other scientists in the School of Medicine and further afield in order to understand the mechanisms of cardiovascular diseases and to develop new blood tests and treatment strategies for patients with cardiac complications due to diabetes. An international collaboration with Dr Graham Rena and his team in the School of Medicine, studied the additional benefits of the type 2 diabetes drug, metformin, as reported in this BBC news article.

You can learn more about the work and achievements of Chim Lang and colleagues who are part of the Institute for Cardiovascular Research.

Research Today:

Cardiovascular events are often linked with nutrient excess-driven metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Li Kang (pictured right) and her team study this group of diseases with aim to understand what causes them and to find new treatment strategies. 

Li's research focuses on understanding how insulin resistance, when cells in the body do not respond to the hormone insulin for maintaining normal glucose level in the blood, is caused. Emerging evidence suggests that the environment surrounding cells, known as the extracellular matrix (ECM), could play a pivotal role in all metabolic diseases. Li Kang's laboratory is primarily interested in understanding the role of the ECM and how it changes when insulin resistance occurs. This research could provide new ways to treat type 2 diabetes and associated cardio-metabolic complications.  

Image (above): Microscopy image of structural and supportive proteins outside of the heart muscle cells known as cardiac collagens. 

Follow the path as it bends left away from Gore. At the crossroads turn right following the cycle path sign to Ninewells. Cross over Tom McDonald Avenue then head up to the Maggie's Centre.  

2) Maggie’s Dundee

Designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry, Maggie’s Dundee opened in 2003 as a centre for cancer support. Dundee’s long history of specialist cancer care goes back to 1906 with the opening of the Caird Cancer Hospital at Dundee Royal Infirmary. 

Find out more about Dundee’s cancer care history in this online exhibition.

Follow path into Arboretum then turn left to reach garden.

3) Ninewells Community Garden

This volunteer-run community garden uses horticulture to support wellbeing, therapy and rehabilitation. Eight of the beds are laid out as a physic garden, featuring plants traditionally used in medicine. The surrounding woodland (known as Ninewells Arboretum) was once part of the estate of nearby Invergowrie House and contains trees over 250 years old!

Continue along the Arboretum path until it comes out onto George Pirie Way (nb - no street sign here).

4) George Pirie Way

This road is named after Dundee’s x-ray pioneer Dr George Pirie. Within months of their discovery in 1895, Pirie was experimenting at Dundee Royal Infirmary on the clinical possibilities of x-rays. Sadly he was unaware of the dangers involved, and lost both his hands and one eye due to radiation damage. 

In this video, museum curator Matthew Jarron tells Pirie’s extraordinary story:

Turn right past East Block (currently used as a COVID Assessment Unit) and follow the footpath running parallel to the road. At the end you’ll see a street sign saying Simpson Avenue – turn left here and continue up George Pirie Way and stop at the junction with Patrick Blair Place. 

5) Patrick Blair Place

Patrick Blair was a Dundee physician who established an early natural history society and a botanic garden in Dundee. However he is best known as the first person to dissect an elephant in 1706 – the animal was being toured as an attraction and died somewhere on Broughty Ferry Road. Blair had its skeleton mounted in his Hall of Rarities, which was also reputed to contain the skeletons of several ex-Provosts!

In this video, Erin Farley from Dundee Libraries tells the story of Blair and the elephant:

Do not head down Patrick Blair Place but continue George Pirie Way to the next turning, James Arrott Drive.

6) James Arrott Drive

James Arrott (pictured left) was a leading physician at Dundee Royal Infirmary in the early 19th century and a prime mover in the development of the new infirmary building which opened in 1855 (featured on Route 1, the City Centre tour).

Head down James Arrott Drive, stopping at the first building on the left.

7) Pharmaceutical Specials Service

This new facility manufactures medicines when available licensed medicines don’t meet the specific needs of patients. These include medicines for patients who have swallowing difficulties or intolerance to particular ingredients, and specialist ointments and creams for dermatology patients.

Head onto the next building on the left.

8) Jacqui Wood Cancer Centre

Jacqui Wood (pictured right) was Chair of the Ninewells Cancer Campaign (NCC) from its foundation in 1991 until her own death from the disease in 2011. She worked tirelessly to raise millions of pounds for cancer research, and this building was named in her honour. Under Jacqui’s leadership, the NCC raised more than £20 million to support local cancer research and treatment, a legacy which continues with the appointment of the latest NCC Chair, Professor Bob Steele. NCC is looking forward to the latest fundraising initiative, the launch the Lady Fraser Fellowships, an ambitious Doctoral Training programme in Precision Cancer Medicine. This programme will train the next generation of translational cancer researchers, further promoting collaboration between scientists and doctors, and the development of “bench to bedside” research in Dundee. 

Research Today:

Everyone responds to drugs slightly differently, in some cases not as intended when the drug was originally developed, and there are many factors which influence how well a drug works. Today, the laboratory of Colin Henderson and Roland Wolf, based in the Jacqui Wood Centre, are trying to understand this process better, making use of genetically engineered mouse models which have been humanised for the key enzymes which metabolise most prescription drugs. This means their experimental data will have much greater relevance to patients. Although their work is focussed on anti-cancer treatments these models can be used to study medications for many diseases, and will also allow scientists to design better drug therapies, particularly when more than one drug is involved, as is increasingly the case with new cancer treatments. They believe that their models will improve the drug development process, and make drugs work better with fewer side-effects.

Conitnue to the next building on the left.

9) Clinical Research Centre

Opened in 2007, the Clinical Research Centre is a hub for clinical trial activity, focusing on key research areas such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. The centre has also become renowned internationally for its work in diabetes research, conducting large-scale population studies and using this data to deliver better health outcomes. 

Research Today:

SHARE - the Scottish Health Research Register - is a database of volunteers who are interested in assisting and promoting research for improving health. Anyone who signs up will be contacted and offered opportunities to get involved, and this could be to help write guidelines, complete a questionnaire online, design a study or to take part in a clinical investigation for a diseases. The choices are very different and there is no obligation to take part in anything. You choose if and when you would like to be involved. To register for SHARE today please visit www.registerforshare.org.

Turn round to see the building opposite.

10) TORT Centre

TORT stands for Tayside Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Technology. It began life in 1965 as the pioneering Dundee Limb Fitting Centre in Broughty Ferry, which provided an integrated rehabilitation programme for amputees. The centre has since expanded to encompass the latest prosthetics and other forms of assistive technology.

Image: Dundee Limb Fitting Centre in the 1960s, courtesy of Tayside Medical History Museum

Check out this video of the motion analysis of a person climbing an indoor wall that was completed here within the Institute of Motion Analysis & Research. Students and researchers use this technology to analyse the relationship between movements, anatomy, and biomechanics, and evaluate treatment options.

Turn back the way you came and head between TORT and the car park up the steps and onto the path adjacent to Thomas Maclagan Way (or head back round by the main road to avoid the steps)  

11) Thomas Maclagan Way

Dr Thomas Maclagan was Medical Superintendent at Dundee Royal Infirmary in the 1860s, where he pioneered the clinical use of thermometers. His most important work, however, was the research he carried out into the anti-rheumatic effects of salicin, a chemical extracted from willow bark. Maclagan's work was taken up by German researchers who used salicin to develop acetyl-salicylic acid - better known today as aspirin.

Learning more about the story of aspirin from the International Aspirin Foundation.

Image: Thomas Maclagan’s microscope, courtesy of Tayside Medical History Museum.

Research Today:

Understanding how medicines work and how to make them better is one area of research that takes place in the School of Medicine. Calum Sutherland's lab works on identifying new and improved treatments for diabetes and its associated complications. Postdoctoral researcher Nicola Morrice (pictured right) is working with colleagues to try to improve the way that the diabetes drug Metformin is used in patients. Although it is the most widely prescribed drug for type 2 diabetes, approximately 1 in 3 patients respond poorly to Metformin and there is not yet have a way of identifying how patients will respond before treatment. The Sutherland lab previously found that Metformin response is linked to the amount of a glucose (sugar) transporter protein made in the body. They therefore think that having different levels of this glucose transporter could be the reason why some people with type 2 diabetes respond better to Metformin than others. Their ongoing work aims to find out how this glucose transporter influences Metformin action. This is important, as in the future it could potentially be used to genetically screen for this glucose transporter to identify whether Metformin is an appropriate treatment for individual patients.

Follow the path towards the main hospital entrance, pausing to look at stained glass outside Library.

12) Ninewells Library, School of Medicine

Dundee’s Medical School has developed significantly from its first beginnings in 1888, and is now one of the leading schools in the UK. It was named top Medical School in the UK in the Complete University Guide 2021. 

See Janice Aitken’s original designs for the windows here. They were inspired by eukaryotic cells (a fundamental building block of the human body). Learn more by reading Janice's blog post about the project.

Carry on to main entrance.

13) Main Entrance, Ninewells Hospital

Ninewells was the first new teaching hospital to be built in Britain since the 19th century, and many of its design principles were revolutionary. When it opened in 1974 it attracted attention from all over the world, and was hailed by the International Hospital Federation as the “Jewel in the Scottish Hospital Crown”. Many important innovations have taken place here since then, including the birth of Scotland’s first IVF (‘test tube’) baby in 1984. 

John & Kirsty share their IVF treatment story in this video:

Research Today:

The Reproductive Medicine Research Group based in the School of Medicine at Ninewells Hospital have two main research goals regarding male fertility:

  • Firstly, to investigate and improve understanding of male infertility. Infertility is a global health problem affecting 1 in 6 couples, with male infertility being responsible for half of cases. In general, we have a poor understanding of what male factors are necessary for fertilisation, and no direct treatments exist. The group aims to understand different aspects of male infertility so they can develop effective treatments. Dr Sarah Martins da Silva runs a translational research programme focused around male infertility, sperm biology and drug discovery explains the important role her team is playing in infertility in this article in the Dundee Evening Telegraph and in this BBC news article.
  • Secondly, they work to identify compounds which could be developed into new male contraceptive options. There have been no new contraceptive choices for men since the development of the condom, but there is clearly demand for modern contraceptives to provide men with choices and as an alternative to female contraceptives. Read about the work currently underway in partnership with researchers in the School of Life Sciences to develop a new male contraceptive in this BBC news article.

Cara Nicholson (pictured left), a PhD student in the group, works to understand the requirements of sperm to activate egg development, as we now know that we need more than just the DNA from these cells. Her hope is that her research will aid understanding of sperm function, and help develop screening tools which can be used to assess sperm function.

 

Image (right): Computer-Assisted Semen Analysis system image of a semen sample. The different coloured lines are tracks of the motility of the sperm head, with different colours representing different stages of motility.

Research Today:

Health and wellbeing during pregnancy is another area of research in the School of Medicine. Agathe Lermant (pictured right), a PhD student in Colin Murdoch's lab, is creating advanced cellular models in 2D and 3D to mimic the development of the placenta in healthy and complicated pregnancy, thus improving our ways of studying the organ in the lab. This work could provide important insights into preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia is a life-threatening condition related to malfunction of the placenta during pregnancy, which can severely affect both the mother and her baby. Yet preeclampsia is still poorly understood, and no efficient cures are available apart from delivering the baby early. That is because early pregnancy is one of the most challenging processes for researchers to investigate, and as a result the placenta is currently the least studied organ in the human body. We need new models replicating early pregnancy events to fill this gap and find new ways to better predict, detect and treat preeclampsia. iPLACENTA is a European Marie Sklodowska-Curie research and training project coordinated by the University of Dundee. It involves 11 institutes and a diverse network of clinicians, scientists, engineers and mathematicians. Agathe Lermant is one of 15 PhD students across Europe working to develop new tools for placental research and accelerate progress in maternal-fetal health. 

Learn more about the iPLACENTA project.

Image: a microscopy image of newly generated placental cells.

Tayside Medical History Museum

Ninewells is the home to the Tayside Medical History Museum. You can visit an online exhibition from the museum exploring the history of Ninewells Hospital, and museum curator Matthew Jarron shares the history of Dundee's hospitals in the following video:

Head along past the bus stops then cross over the road and head down onto Kirsty Semple Way.

14) Kirsty Semple Way

Kirsty Semple ran a GP practice in Dundee from 1951-1981. She set up Tayside Breast Care and Mastectomy Group in 1978, and also helped to set up Tayside Council on Addictions. One of her GP patients was cartoonist Dudley D Watkins, who is said to have dressed Daphne Broon in her outfits! 

Read more about Kirsty on the Dundee Women's Trail website

Research Today:

Andrew Evans and colleagues use new breast imaging procedures to help diagnose breast cancer and to predict breast cancer behaviour. They use a technique called shear wave elastography, which is an add-on to an ultrasound examination to measure the stiffness of breast lesions. This helps them tell benign lumps from cancerous lumps. In people with breast cancer, the stiffness predicts how aggresive the cancer is, its likelihood of spreading to the lymph nodes, its chance of responding to chemotherapy and the prognosis.

Continue downhill, pausing to look towards the Mackenzie Building on your right.

15) Mackenzie Building

This building is home to the Centre for Medical Education, which has played a pioneering role in developing medical teaching around the world. One of its early successes was the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), developed in the mid-1970s as a reliable objective method of measuring clinical skills – it is now used worldwide. 

Listen to Professor Ronald Harden OBE, who founded the Centre of Medical Education over 40 years ago and was presented with an honorary degree at our Summer 2019 graduation ceremony.

Research Today:

A team including Jane Dickson (pictured left), a Research Fellow from the School of Medicine, are currently based in the Mackenzie Building and are working on the Antibiotic Research in Care Homes (ARCH) study. This is a multidisciplinary research collaboration investigating how to safely improve antibiotic prescribing in care homes. There is a wide variation in prescribing practices in the sector and recognition that antibiotic use could and should be reduced to help combat the growing global problem of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). They are investigating the problem through a novel collaboration between epidemiologists, anthropologists, and psychologists. When completed, they will have used this knowledge to design and test a support system for care homes, ready for a large scale trial. This should help enable new approaches to decision making on antibiotic prescribing and infection management.

For more information: arch-antibiotics.org.uk  

Turn round to see the Radiotherapy department on the other side of the road.

16) Radiotherapy department

The Radiotherapy department opened at Ninewells in 1975, building on the earlier work of pioneers we have already encountered such as George Pirie and Margaret Fairlie. It has always boasted state-of-the-art equipment, including Dundee’s first linear accelerator (1975) and CT scanner (1986).

Image: Heather McCarthy with an orthovoltage machine in the Radiotherapy department, 1979, courtesy of Tayside Medical History Museum.  

At the roundabout, turn right onto Tom McDonald Avenue and continue on to Carseview Centre on the left.

17) Carseview Centre

Mental health treatment began in Dundee in 1805 when an asylum opened as part of the Infirmary. A separate Lunatic Asylum opened off Albert Street in 1820, moving to larger buildings at West Green in 1882. It was renamed Royal Dundee Liff Hospital in 1963, but replaced in 2001 with this much smaller facility, reflecting the shift towards out-patient care.  

Image: Royal Dundee Liff Hospital at Westgreen, courtesy of Tayside Medical History Museum.

Research Today:

Today, Carseview Centre and NHS Tayside play a pivotal role partnering with the University of Dundee in helping shape the psychiatrists, allied health care professionals and mental health nurses of the future by providing shadowing opportunities and practice placements in a variety of mental health care settings.

To learn more about the School of Health Sciences’ partnership with NHS Tayside, view their suite of films on Mental Health Nursing here. One example is this video about brothers Arran and Kyle who both decided to pursue a career in Mental Health Nursing. Watch their inspirational story…

The University of Dundee continues to use the inspiration of the past to inform current mental health nursing education by running workshops where students access archive materials from Tayside's asylums. They also partner with Dundee Healthy Minds Network, a support organisation for individuals with lived experience of mental health conditions. Participants access a range of archive materials around mental health and participate in workshops with a view to creating something unique, which reflects their personal journey, to deposit in the Archives for future users.

Continue on, stopping to look towards Wilson House up Wurzburg Loan on your right.

18) Wilson House

The building at the end of Wurzburg Loan is home to the Institute for Medical Science & Technology, which brings together experts in biomedical and physical sciences. Among its innovations are the development of new minimal-access surgical instruments, which Dundee is world-famous for pioneering thanks to the vision of Sir Alfred Cuschieri, who came here as Professor of Surgery in 1976. 

Image: Sir Alfred Cuschieri (right) teaching at the Cuschieri Skills Centre, courtesy of Tayside Medical History Museum / Cuschieri Skills Centre.

Before you reach Wurzburg Court, turn left onto the footpath after Carseview. Head down the hill and back to the start.

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