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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 extends footprint abroad
2015-12-14

In its constant pursuit of research excellence, the UFS has this year performed well in mainly two areas.

Apart from the research done by the UFS on national level, e.g. the involvement of its researchers with the SKA telescope, the pioneering work they do with the satellite tracking of giraffes, as well as research on trauma, forgiveness and reconciliation – to name but a few of the research areas, the university also has a research focus abroad.

Japan, Europe, America and Botswana. These are just some of the places where academics from the university are involved in research abroad.

Japan

Dr Dirk Opperman, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, and Carmien Tolmie, a PhD student in the same department, visited the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Onna, Japan, during November and December 2014. During the visit, experiments were performed in the Microbiology and Biochemistry of Secondary Metabolite Unit of Dr Holger Jenke-Kodama.

This formed part of a larger NRF-funded project on carcinogenic toxins produced in certain Aspergillus fungi. These fungi infect food and feedstuff and are a big concern in developing countries because it may lead to severe economic losses. The research ultimately aims to find inhibitors to block the production of these fungal toxins.



Europe and America

In 2012, an international network was established in the frame of the FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IRSES programme, called hERG-related risk assessment of botanicals (hERGscreen). The South African group included Dr Susan Bonnet and Dr Anke Wilhelm, both from the UFS Department of Chemistry.

Extracts from more than 450 South African plant species have been investigated systematically to assess the potential cardiotoxic risk of commonly consumed botanicals and supplements. The idea of the project, funded by the European Commission, is to identify safety liabilities of botanicals.

Other international partners included the University of Innsbruck, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens, University of Basel, University of Vienna, University of Florida, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina.

Botswana


A memorandum of understanding was signed between the UFS and Botho University in Botswana in September 2015, which will be valid for three years.

The agreement, includes student and staff exchange programmes, collaborative research, teaching and learning and community engagement activities, sharing of results, and PhD/ MPhil guidance.

Young researchers

Another research focus of the UFS is the development of its young researchers. In 2015, the UFS has delivered 13 Y-rated researchers. Ten of the researchers are from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and three from the Faculty of the Humanities. Three of them received an Y1 rating from the NRF.

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