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Did you know there is currently no cure worldwide for short bowel syndrome? Dramatically impacting quality of life, people living with the syndrome are unable to absorb the vital nutrients we rely on every day from our food. This leaves them suffering with severe complications including abdominal pain, weight loss and malnutrition, just to name a few.

When babies are born prematurely they are left with an undeveloped small intestine. Currently the only way to treat this condition is by resection of the small bowel, which sadly leaves the baby suffering with short bowel syndrome and in some cases intestinal failure.

With no therapies currently available for these debilitating and life-altering conditions, Zenab Dudhwala has dedicated her PhD project to understanding the mechanism behind postnatal growth of the small intestine.

“When a baby has short bowel syndrome, they spend a longer time in intensive care receiving specialised care and eating a different diet to others. This not only has an impact on the baby but also the family,” Zenab explains.

“This syndrome goes on to affect the rest of their life, leaving the sufferer unable to absorb nutrients and living with constant nausea and reflux to only name a few of the side effects.”

Zenab’s research will help to identify key proteins involved in the process of crypt fission, which is a process that allows the gut to grow in length. She hopes by identifying proteins that initiate this growth, doctors will then be able to target them to improve outcomes for short bowel syndrome sufferers and those with intestinal failure.

“We already know that the small intestine grows rapidly in babies aged six to 12 months so I’m working to understand why that is the case, in order to pinpoint a protein we could target as a therapy to increase growth in others living with short bowel syndrome.

“If we can find proteins that do play a role in helping the intestine to grow back we can then target these in a therapy for short bowel syndrome sufferers.”

With her research being the first of its kind, Zenab’s project could potentially lead to a cure for this debilitating and life-changing conditions.

We look forward to keeping you updated as Zenab progresses with her work.