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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

Student excels at international level with research in Inorganic Chemistry
2015-09-21


Carla Pretorius is currently conducting research in
Inorganic Chemistry at the St Petersburg University,
Russia.

Photo:Supplied

Carla Pretorius completed her PhD in Inorganic Chemistry recently, with a thesis entitled “Structural and Reactivity Study of Rhodium(I) Carbonyl Complexes as Model Nano Assemblies”, and has just received her results. The assessors were very impressed, and she will graduate at the next UFS Summer Graduation in December 2015.

She is currently conducting research in St Petersburg, Russia, by invitation. She is working in the group of Prof Vadim Kukushkin of the St Petersburg University, under a bilateral collaboration agreement between the groups of Prof Kukuskin (SPBU) and Prof André Roodt (Head of the Department of Chemistry at the UFS).

Her research involves the intermetallic rhodium-rhodium interactions for the formation of nano-wires and -plates, with applications in the micro-electronics industry, and potentially for harvesting sun energy. She was one of only three young South African scientists invited to attend the workshop “Hot Topics in Contemporary Crystallography” in Split in Croatia during 2014. More recently, she received the prize for best student poster presentation at the international symposium, Indaba 8 in Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, which was judged by an international panel.

Carla was also one of the few international PhD students invited to present a lecture at the 29th European Crystallographic Meeting (ECM29) in Rovinj, Croatia (23-28 August 2015; more than 1 000 delegates from 51 countries). As a result of this lecture, she has just received an invitation to start a collaborative project with a Polish research group at the European Synchrotron Research Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France.

According to Prof Roodt, the ESRF ID09B beam line is the only one of its kind in Europe designed for time-resolved Laue diffraction experiments. It has a time-resolution of up to one tenth of a nanosecond, after activation by a laser pulse 100 times shorter (one tenth of a nanosecond when compared to one second is the equivalent of one second compared to 300 years). The results from these experiments will broaden the knowledge on light-induced transformations of very short processes; for example, as in photochemical reactions associated with sun energy harvesting, and will assist in the development of better materials to capture these.

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