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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

Linguistic resourcefulness impresses at 15th Student Symposium on the Natural Sciences
2015-11-26


UFS students walk away with more than half the prizes at this year’s Student Symposium on the Natural Sciences.

This year, the fifteenth annual Student Symposium on the Natural Sciences was hosted on the Bloemfontein Campus by the UFS Departments of Chemistry and Physics, together with the South African Academy for Science and Arts (SAAWK).

According to Dr Ernie Langner, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, this symposium provides postgraduate students from all over South Africa the opportunity to present their research in Afrikaans, to learn from each other, receive feedback on their work through the review process, and to build networks. If their abstracts are selected for publication in the Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie, it also provides them with further exposure in the broader academic context.

Besides research of the highest quality, this year's symposium had no shortage of linguistic resourcefulness. “Students, accustomed to writing and expressing their research in English, astonished everybody with their beautiful Afrikaans. Outstanding research from honours, master's, and doctoral students was expressed in scientific terminology of the highest standard,” Dr Langner said.

The Student Symposium is the only event (worldwide) where the development of 'elektrostatiese potensiaalkaarte', 'femtosekonde pomp-proef spektroskopie', or 'endokrien-ontwrigtende chemikalieë' is explained step by step. This is where one hears enthusiastic students talking about how hard they are working on 'geïntegreerde drywende sonkragstelsels', or 'geneste virtuele rekenaars binne die wolkstelsel'. The results of hours of hard work in the lab, cold nights behind a telescope, or long midnight sessions in front of the computer, had to be condensed into 15-minute presentations on the synthesis of metal-organic networks, or metal-carbene complexes, the identification of pulsar rhythms, or the refining of rapid-eye technology.

Of approximately forty participants from five universities, eighteen were awarded prizes for their papers and posters. Students from the UFS walked away with more than half of the awards. Jacques Maritz (Physics) and his wife, Elizabeth, (Mathematics and Applied Mathematics) from the UFS were both awarded first place in their respective sessions.

 

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