A COVENTRY-based charity is making steps towards improving neonatal care with the recruitment of a PhD student, who has already made some key discoveries.
Ayan Dirir was recruited by the Grace Research Fund last year to look into a particular protein that affects women advancing in labour – and there are already hopes the research will result in fewer women entering labour early.
In a talk given to neonatal staff at University Hospital in Coventry, Ayan, from Leicester, explained that she is investigating a protein named PLCL1 – which is believed to prevent contractions in the uterus.
Currently studying at the Clinical Science Research Laboratories, which is part of the Warwick Medical School, Ayan said the aim of the study is to find out how the protein works in order to develop new drugs around it.
She added: “We’re measuring the protein as a test for the onset of labour – if the protein is high, and then dramatically decreases, we believe this may cause women to enter into labour prematurely.
“To tackle this we are now working to figure out if we can control the protein and if the research is successful, ultimately we hope it will result in reduced cases of caesareans and foetal distress.
“We have found a number of discoveries so far about PLCL1 and I look forward to continuing my research over the next three years as I work to enhance neonatal care.”
Dr Andrew Blanks, associate professor at the University of Warwick who is supervising Ayan’s research, said it is important to learn more about the protein.
He added: “Premature births affect ten per cent of women.
“Despite the advances in medicine, we still don’t know an awful lot about what causes women to enter labour early.
“In some cases premature birth can mean mortality, especially in under-developed countries.
“Ayan’s research aims to understand how the protein can make a woman advance into labour early – and this we hope could significantly lower the risk of premature births.”
Dr Prakash Satodia, consultant neonatologist, at University Hospital, said: “Ayan is the first PhD student the Grace Research Fund has been able to fund and already she is making promising developments with her research.
“We look forward to seeing how the study develops and hope the public’s support for the charity continues so that we can fund more important and potentially life-saving research in future.”