08 November 2018 Volume :6 Issue :58

UKZN PhD Candidate Presents Pre-Eclampsia Research in Amsterdam

UKZN PhD Candidate Presents Pre-Eclampsia Research in Amsterdam
Miss Sayuri Padayachee, UKZN PhD student who presented her research in Amsterdam.

Miss Sayuri Padayachee, a PhD student in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences recently presented her Masters research at the 2018 Congress of the International Society of Hypertension in Pregnancy (ISSHP) in Amsterdam.

The ISSHP aims to advance education on maternal healthcare on a global scale by encouraging young researchers to participate and disseminate their research and scientific input from respective countries.

The title of Padayachee’s research which she presented at the medical conference is, The Role of the Protein Kinases STAT-3 and MEK-1 in HIV-associated Pre-Eclampsia. Her research focuses on hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, as these remain the leading cause of maternal deaths in South Africa.

Our placental group at the Optics and Imaging Centre from the School of LMMS, focuses on pre-eclampsia research. Pre-eclampsia is a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy complicating 5-10% of all pregnancies globally and accounts for considerable maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. Pre-eclampsia diagnosis includes new onset of high blood pressure (BP) (=140/90 mmHg) and proteinuria (=300mg protein) after 20 weeks gestational age. Women with pre-eclampsia also exhibit an exaggerated inflammatory response compared to normal pregnancies.

Padayachee, who was one of three South Africans who attended the conference, says it was a great honor representing both the country and UKZN.

‘Attending the conference was a massive opportunity to engage with researchers from other leading academic institutes of the world, including Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard to name a few. I was able to learn about the advancements made in pre-eclampsia research and I was able to share the research done on our side. My study was unique at the conference, due to the HIV component, therefore other researchers/academics were intrigued as HIV-positive patients were not included in their study group,’ she boasted.

In this study, Padayachee and her research team selected HIV-positive women on highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) with pre-eclampsia, as research has shown a possible link between HIV and pre-eclampsia probably because of the immuno-depressive effects of HIV infection.

Her study focuses on the role of the proteins STAT-3 and MEK-1 in regulating trophoblast invasion necessary for a normal pregnancy, however her results revealed that in pre-eclampsia these proteins are downregulated, thereby corroborating results of previous studies.

Padayachee has already submitted this paper to the journal Hypertension in Pregnancy and it is currently under review.

‘I would like to thank Professor T Naicker and Professor J Moodley for their guidance in the past two years. It is a pleasure being a part of their placental research group as their passion and enthusiasm for pre-eclampsia research always encourages and reminds me how much further I need to go to reach their levels of expertise in the field,’ said the 24-year-old from Tongaat in KwaZulu-Natal.

She hopes to complete her PhD soon and would like to remain in the academic field. She hopes to pursue postdoctoral studies at an academic institute overseas.

‘Whilst growing up, the value of having an education and yearning for new knowledge has always been instilled in me. Irrespective of our age or occupation, it is imperative that we always expose ourselves to new information and innovative ideas which may have the potential of changing and improving the knowledge of others who may not have the same opportunities as us,’ Padayachee said.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied

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