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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. 


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Summer programme a first outside Austria
2012-12-06

 

Mr Derek Hanekom, Minister of Science and Technology
Foto: Johan Roux

05 Desember 2012

People often fight about their differences, like skin colour, religion and more. “These differences are minute. We must celebrate our common ancestry and commit ourselves to a common destiny. Your work can make a difference.” This is according to Mr Derek Hanekom, Minister of Science and Technology.

He opened the Southern African Young Scientists Summer Programme (SA-YSSP) at the Bloemfontein Campus on Sunday 2 December 2012. The UFS is the first institution outside Austria to host the Summer Programme. A total of 19 young researchers from 17 countries will be hosted by the UFS until 28 February 2013. Researchers in the programme are, among others, from South Africa, Egypt, China, Italy, Sweden, Iran, Hungary, India, the USA and Indonesia.

The programme will form part of an annual three-month education, academic training and research capacity-building programme jointly organised by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), based in Austria, the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST). IIASA is an international research organisation that conducts policy-oriented scientific research in the three global problem areas of energy and climate change, food and water and poverty and equity. South Africa’s engagements with IIASA, specifically with regard to the SA-YSSP, relate primarily to the DST’s Ten-Year Innovation Plan.

Mr Hanekom spoke about the impact the growing global population, which is expected to grow from 7 billion in 2012 to 9 billion in 2050, has on natural resources. “We use purified water to flush our toilets while other people do not have clean drinking water. We cannot carry on like this. Somewhere it must stop, if we do not want to be responsible for the 6th great extinction. We must know how our systems impact on each other.

“We can do things differently and better and should endeavour that other people enjoy luxuries we take for granted,” he said.

He urged the researchers to believe that they can make a difference, share knowledge and translate the knowledge into plans.

Prof. Dr Pavel Kabat, Director/CEO of IIASA, said the summer programme was presented outside Austria for the first time, with plans to expand to Brazil and China in future. Twenty countries are represented on the IIASA board, with more than 3 000 researchers associated with the organisation.

IIASA was launched in 1972 in the days of the Cold War as a “science bridge” between the West and the Soviet Union. It served as a “think tank” for various issues that needed to be resolved. Its mission was reconfirmed after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

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