Life-changing research to help children born prematurely and children suffering from lung disease highlighted at event

Posted by ap507 at May 11, 2016 10:52 AM |
Free public event supported by Action Medical Research showcases University of Leicester medical expertise on Thursday 19 May

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 11 May 2016

Photo/ media opp: The ‘Meet our Action Heroes’ event takes place at the University of Leicester’s Stamford Court conference centre on Thursday 19 May from 10am until 11:15am. Contact Clara Gill on to arrange.

Life-changing research into helping children born prematurely and those suffering from lung disease will be showcased at an event organised by Action Medical Research at the University of Leicester’s Stamford Court conference centre on Thursday 19 May.

Members of the public are invited to attend the ‘Meet our Action Heroes’ event and hear from experts Drs Samantha Johnson and Robert Hirst from the University of Leicester.

The event will also feature videos and a presentation about Action Medical Research and ways to support the charity - as well as a short talk from one of their long term supporters, Petronella Keeling, who received an MBE for her volunteer work with Action.

For over 60 years Action Medical Research has funded some of the most significant medical breakthroughs, including the ultrasound in pregnancy, fetal MRI’s, Meningitis Hib, Rubella and Polio vaccinations and artificial bones that grow with children.

Dr Johnson is a Reader in Developmental Psychology at the Department of Health Sciences and The Infant Mortality and Morbidity Studies (TIMMS) group, University of Leicester. For over 10 years she has been involved in studies of the outcomes of children who were born prematurely. She specialises in research that tracks the development of premature babies from birth to determine the effects this has on their health and development in the long term. Most recently, her research has focused on understanding educational outcomes in preterm children and she currently leads the Premature Infants’ Skills in Mathematics (PRISM) study team investigating mathematics skills in very preterm children.

Dr Johnson said: “I am delighted to support this event and to tell the public about the research we are carrying out to help premature children who have learning difficulties at school. Our work has been funded by the charity Action Medical Research over the last five years thanks to the efforts of all their supporters and fundraisers.

“The charity is inviting members of the local community to come along and hear about some of the research they support here at Leicester and how they can get involved in fundraising. No matter how big or small, the proceeds from all their fundraisers’ efforts enable researchers like us to make a difference to children’s lives.”

Dr Robert Hirst is the Principal Scientist at the Centre for Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD) diagnosis and research, in the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Leicester.

Dr Hirst said: “Without funding from Action Medical Research lots of great ideas for improving children’s health would not be supported. I hope that this event will showcase some of the excellent research that is being done in Leicester and spur people on to intensify fundraising efforts for such an important charity.”

PCD is a rare genetic disease that causes the cilia in the body to malfunction and this leads to recurrent chest infection and lung damage in children. Dr Hirst has been diagnosing PCD for the NHS in the midlands and north of England since 2006 and, in that time, the diagnostic team have identified over 300 new cases.

His research interests focus on understanding the role of motile cilia in health and disease and his work has been published in over 50 scientific articles. The AMR supported research on read through therapy for PCD patients aims to correct ciliary malfunction in the lungs and thus alleviate their severe respiratory problems.

The free public ‘Meet our Action Heroes’ event takes place at the University of Leicester’s Stamford Court conference centre on Thursday 19 May from 10am until 11:15am.

Free tea/coffee and free parking will be available on the day.

For more information about the event and to book tickets visit the website:


Notes to editors:

For more information about the research contact Dr Samantha Johnson on or Dr Robert Hirst on

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