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14 May 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Tsepo Moeketsi
Prof Ashafa
Prof Ashafa’s research documents plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments.

The Phytomedicine and Phytopharmacology Research Programme (PPRP) in the Department of Plant Sciences on the Qwaqwa Campus researches the biological effects of medicinal plants used in the folkloric medicine of the Eastern Free State, particularly to explore the values and contribution of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) towards broader scientific research. This is according to the programme’s principal investigator and researcher, NRF C2-rated researcher, Professor Anofi Ashafa. 

 “Our research is mainly aimed at documenting plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments and to further discover, isolate, and purify active phytoconstituents that are responsible for disease curation or amelioration, thereby assisting in the global promotion of accessible and affordable medication in developing countries,” said Prof Ashafa. 

Since 2012, the PPRP has worked extensively on Basotho medicinal plants (BMP) used as antimicrobials, antioxidants, antidiabetics, antitubercular, anticancer, anthelmintic, and antidiarrheal agents, starting from biological activities up to the  evaluation of the toxicity of these plants for the kidney, liver, and heart functions in order to establish safe dosage parameters. These activities have led to the discovery of four potent antidiabetic biomolecules that are awaiting the processes of patency and commercialisation. Additional outputs include 104 published peer-reviewed articles , 7 postdoctoral fellows, 6 PhDs, 9 master’s, and 16 honours graduates. 

“Our research informs teaching and the development of expertise in ethnobotany, 
phytomedicine, and phytopharmacology in order to contribute to the National Development Plan (NDP) through human capacity development, skills, and knowledge transfer.

The group is also investigating some medicinal plants on the endangered red list of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), through micropropagation and field trials as well as proposing conservation strategies to preserve these valuable species.

The PPRP consists of postdoctoral fellows, PhD, master’s, and honours students and research is done in collaboration with several local and international universities as well as the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. 


News Archive

Cochlear implant changes Magteld's world
2009-11-06

The microphone is ready for Magteld Smith’s (second from the left) first radio interview after the cochlear implant was switched on by Mr Henk Wolmarans (right) of MedEl. With them are, from the left: Ms Vicki Fourie, Deaf Miss SA, Ms Eunika Smith from the SABC and Prof. Jonathan Jansen.
Photo: Leatitia Pienaar


Magteld Smith gave her first steps towards the world of the hearing when her cochlear implant was switched on in the Universitas Hospital this week.

A whole team was there to share her joy and disbelief and amazement the moment she could hear noises, voices and conversations. Among them were the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof. Jonathan Jansen, and the acting dean of the Faculty of Heath Sciences at the UFS, Prof. Gert van Zyl.

“I can hear my own voice! I haven’t heard it for a long time. My wish is that every deaf child can get something like this,” she said while prodding Prof. Jansen to speak so that she can hear his voice.

Magteld is working at the university's Centre for Health Systems Research and Development and was deaf since birth. She lost her last bit of hearing due to meningitis last year. Her hearing aids could then not assist her to communicate and a cochlear implant was the only option.

A donation by the Austrian company MedEl made the implant possible. Prof. André Claassen, Head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at the UFS, says MedEl was also instrumental in the establishment of the implant programme at the Universitas Hospital and sponsored the first five implants at a total cost of R1 million.

Prof. Claassen says 27 implants have already been done here, but it came to an abrupt halt due to a lack of funds. Strong hearing aids are expensive and cochlear implants are even more expensive at R200 000 each. People with hearing disabilities must be identified at an early age as the brain’s ability to learn sound and voice diminishes after the age of three.
 

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