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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

UFS lecturer serves on National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board
2015-02-13

Dr Karin Ehlers

Dr Karin Ehlers, lecturer in the Department of Genetics at the University of the Free State, was elected by the Minister of Police, Mr Nkosinathi Nhleko, to serve on the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board which will, among others, monitor the implementation of the provisions of the DNA Act.

Previously, when DNA evidence was collected at a crime scene, it was analysed only when requested by the prosecutor or investigator when they had found a suspect and needed confirmation. With the new DNA Act, all samples collected from violent crimes must be analysed. The profiles will be compared with a convicted offender database to see if some of the unsolved cases can be linked to these perpetrators. The reason for this is that many of these offenders are repeat offenders, and this process will increase the chances of solving cases successfully.

Serving on the Board, Dr Ehlers will also have the opportunity to contribute to proposals on:
- the improvement of practices regarding the overall operations of the National Forensic DNA Database (NFDD),
- the ethical, legal, and social implications of the use of forensic DNA profiles, and
- the training and the development of criteria for the use of familial searches.

Board members will also receive and assess complaints about alleged violations relating to the abuse of DNA samples and forensic DNA profiles and/or security breaches, and will report to complainants in respect thereof.

In 2014, when all citizens in South Africa were invited to apply for a position on the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board, Dr Ehlers submitted her application with a motivation on how she could contribute to the function of the Board. She is one of ten persons who were appointed to serve on the Board. “The reason I was successful was due to my involvement in the development of the UFS Forensic Sciences Programme,” Dr Ehlers said.

The capacity of the country was one of the challenges that had to be overcome for this Act to take effect. ”The UFS was able to address this problem, implementing degrees in Forensic Genetics and Forensic Sciences. With these programmes we made a real difference in the fight against crime. It is a real privilege to form part of this project,” said Dr Ehlers.

Dr Karin Ehlers serves on National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board (read the full story)

 

For more information or enquiries contact news@ufs.ac.za

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