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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. 


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Discovery in Scorpius constellation may signify clean energy for Earth
2017-01-23

 Description: Discovery in Scorpius constellation may signify clean energy for Earth Tags: Discovery in Scorpius constellation may signify clean energy for Earth

Earlier this year, a group of international astronomers
announced the discovery of an exotic binary star system,
AR Scorpii. The system is in the Scorpius constellation.
Photos: Supplied

See article on Nature’s website 

In future, stargazers and astronomers will look at the Scorpius constellation near the Milky Way with new eyes. Earlier this year, a group of international astronomers announced the discovery of an exotic binary star system, AR Scorpii. The system is in the Scorpius constellation.

Prof Pieter Meintjes, researcher in the Department of Physics at the University of the Free State (UFS), worked with four colleagues on what he describes as a “wonderful discovery”. This sensational discovery, which could lead to the production of cleaner energy on Earth, will be published in the research journal, Nature, early in 2017.

Model developed to interpret new set of measurements
The exotic binary star which was discovered consists of a red dwarf and a white dwarf revolving around each other every 3,5 hours. The binary system showed very prominent pulsations of 117 and 118 seconds respectively. The pulsations can be explained by a bundle radiation produced by the white dwarf star.

“These new observations have shown that the radiation is strongly polarised, a sign that we are dealing with synchrotron radiation here. Synchrotron radiation is produced by electrons accelerated to extremely high energy levels in the magnetic field of the white dwarf star,” says Prof Meintjes.

He developed a theoretical model to interpret a new set of measurements that was taken by the 1,9 m telescope and the 10 m SALT telescope at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAA0).

Totally unique phenomenon could contribute to energy production on Earth
“I further indicated that the interaction between the magnetic fields of the white dwarf star and the red dwarf star induces secondary processes that specifically describe the behaviour of the radiation in the radio band and infrared band accurately. AR Sco is the first white-red dwarf binary system of which all the pulsated radiation could be explained by the synchrotron process, which is totally unique,” says Prof Meintjes.

According to Prof Meintjes, the value of the model lies in the fact that the processes which produce the radiation in AR Sco, can also be applied to produce energy on Earth.

 

Plasma reactors are based on roughly the same processes which apply in AR Sco, and with refining, it could be utilised to generate electricity in future. This will be much cleaner than nuclear energy.

 

The model developed by Prof Meintjes explains all the radiation in the system – from radio waves to X-rays – in terms of electrons accelerated to extremely high energy levels by electric fields in the system, which then produce synchrotron radiation over a very wide band of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Prof Meintjes is currently working on a follow-up article examining the evolution of the AR Sco, in other words, the origin of such a unique system and the final state towards which it is evolving. “My vision for the immediate future is therefore to develop a model for the evolution of the source concerned,” he says.

 

 

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