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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 Cardiovascular Research Centre a South African solution to continental crisis
2015-11-30

From left are: Dr Robert Kleinloog, president of the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons of South Africa, Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof Robert Frater after which the Robert W M Frater Cardiovascular Research Centre was named and Prof Francis Smit, head of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the UFS, at the launch of the new centre.
Photo: Johan Roux

“You don’t have to be in New York or any big city in the world to establish a cardiovascular centre that delivers work of world standards. I’ve learned that extraordinary things are achieved by ordinary people who apply themselves accordingly. This research centre is a South African solution to a continental challenge”.

These were the words of Prof Robert Frater at the opening of the new Robert W M Frater Cardiovascular Research Centre in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of the Free State (UFS) School of Medicine.

The centre, one of only two of the kind in the country, will focus on bioengineering and cardiovascular research. It was opened on Wednesday 18 November 2015 in the Francois Retief Building on the Bloemfontein campus.

The centre is named after Prof Robert W.M Frater in recognition of his vast contribution to the UFS. He is internationally recognised for his outstanding academic, clinical, and scientific contributions to cardiac surgery. Prof Frater has also been actively involved in research activities of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery for the last 10 years. In 2011, he received an honorary doctorate from the UFS.

Under the leadership of Prof Francis Smit, head of Cardiothoracic Surgery, the department has been described as a dynamic unit at the forefront of meeting the different changes in Southern Africa while maintaining an excellent clinical and academic track record.

At the opening, Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, thanked Prof Frater for his presence at, involvement in, and support of the UFS. “I am looking forward to working in collaboration with the department to make this university a research centre of excellence in the continent”, he said.

The centre has existing endeavours already in operation, including Population projects, Clinical studies, and Clinical pathology, to name three. In collaboration with the Central University of Technology, the University of Stellenbosch, and Charite University of Berlin, among numerous others, the centre will be an appropriate help to an African challenge.

Its introduction promises advanced research outcomes with the potential to make the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery a world-class competitor.

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