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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

Renowned forensic scientist speaks at the UFS
2014-04-02


Forensic science is about the truth. At the presentation delivered by Dr David Klatzow, were, from the left: Tinus Viljoen, lecturer in Forensic Genetics, Dr Klatzow and Laura Heathfield, also a lecturer in Forensic Genetics.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs 

It is necessary for more research to be done in the field of forensic science in South Africa. This is according to Dr David Klatzow, well-known forensic scientist, during a lecture delivered at the University of the Free State (UFS) last week.

The university is offering, for the first time this year, a BSc degree in Forensic Science in the Department of Genetics. This three-year degree is, among others, directed at people working for the South African Police Service on crime scenes and on criminal cases in forensic laboratories. Students can also study up to PhD level, specialising in various forensic fields.

There is no accredited forensic laboratory in South Africa. “It is time to look differently at forensic science, and to deliver research papers on the subject. In light of the manner in which science is applied, we have to look differently at everything,” Dr Klatzow said.

Dr Klatzow praised the university for its chemistry-based course. “Chemistry is a strong basis for forensic science,” he said.

A paradigm shift in terms of forensic science is needed. Micro scratches on bullets, fingerprints, DNA, bite marks – all of these are forensic evidence that in the past led to people being wrongfully hanged. This evidence is not necessarily the alpha and omega of forensic science today. DNA, which seems to be the golden rule, can produce problems in itself. Because a person leaves DNA in his fingerprint, it is possible that DNA is transferred from one crime scene to another by forensic experts dusting for fingerprints. According to Dr Klatzow, this is only one of the problems that could be experienced with DNA evidence.

“No single set of forensic evidence is 100% effective or without problems. Rather approach the crime scene through a combination of evidence, by collecting fingerprints, DNA, etc. It is also very important to look at the context in which the events happened.

“A person sees what he expects to see. This causes huge problems in terms of forensic science. For example, if a criminal fits the profile of the perpetrator, it doesn’t follow that this specific criminal is the culprit. It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that isn’t so,” Dr Klatzow said.

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