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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

New yeast named after Bloemfontein
2011-11-21

 
Martie Smit, prof Jacobus Albertyn and Carlien Pohl.
Photo: Stefan Lotter

A second living organism was named after Bloemfontein, adding to the fact that the University of the Free State (UFS) has the largest yeast collection in the Southern Hemisphere.

In an article in the highly acclaimed scientific journal, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, three lecturers from the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, at the UFS, Dr Carlien Pohl, Prof. Martie Smit and Prof. Jacobus Albertyn, describe four new yeast species.
 
One of these species, isolated from pine needles from Bloemfontein, has been named after this city and will be known as Rhodotorula bloemfonteinensis. ‘Rhodo’ refers to the redness of these types of yeast. This makes this yeast only the second living organism to be named after Bloemfontein. The other is a mite (Pilogalumna bloemfonteinensis), which was described in 1972.
 
In short, yeast is a micro-organism that is part of the fungi family. Prof. Albertyn, “The most common of these are the bakers’ yeast, of which the bloemfonteinensis forms part.”
 
Among these four species they discovered, the Rhodotorula pini was also discovered on the Bloemfontein Campus of the UFS during December 1995.
 
“The UFS now has the largest yeast collection in the Southern Hemisphere. All over the world, science is busy researching the field of bio-diversity. This promotes the bio-diversity at the UFS,” Prof. Albertyn says.

 

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