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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

Laptop in, paper out
2013-07-31

 

Prof Pieter Nel gives advice to students.
Photo: Johan Roux
31 July 2013

The first major steps to a paperless lecture environment for the School of Medicine were taken in July 2013 with the presentation of laptops to all first-year- medical students.

The aim is to have the entire undergraduate medical programme computer-driven within a few years and to get rid of paper in the classroom.

Prof Pieter Nel, Programme Director: Health Sciences at the school in the Faculty of Health Sciences, said, “As far as we know, this action is the first of its kind in any medical school in South Africa whereby an entire class are supplied with computers for this purpose. We also have no knowledge of anything similar in any programme within any other faculty at any university in South Africa.”

All first-year medical students received laptops. The UFS is facilitating the process to provide students with computer access via their own laptops. “The reason for this is that the undergraduate health-sciences programme will be totally computerised from now on. Students will therefore utilise their laptops in all their contact sessions.”

The entire building where teaching takes place is equipped with Wi-Fi. The students buy the laptops at a much lower cost than the commercial price.

Prof Nel said the printing costs of study material during a student’s undergraduate study years can amount to as much as R5 000.

In future, first-year students will receive laptops, computerising the entire undergraduate health-sciences programme within a few years, Prof Nel said.

During the presentation of the first laptops, Prof Gert van Zyl, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, referred to this action as a big step forward in modernising the undergraduate training of medical students in the faculty.

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