Inspiring Young African Scientists Making a trail in Natural Products Research – Part I

The field of scientific research in Africa is currently receiving many young and ambitious candidates. I here-by present four scientists who in coordination and sponsorship of SABINA, a Southern African Network for Natural Products, Biochemistry and Bioinformatics have been carrying out their researches as Masters and PhD candidates. The researches are on the relevant problems that face Africa, ie health, agriculture and even cosmetics, and they already show promising results. What is even more impressive is the number of female candidates in this platform and their interesting studies. This is the first part of a series of posts about SABINA young scientists.

Cyprian Mpinda

Cyprian Mpinda

Cyprian Mpinda, PhD Student at University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Tanzania

Study: Traditional Medicine used Western Tanzania to treat        HIV/AIDS associated diseases

Category: Health

In Africa, majority of population still rely on traditional medicines to cure alignments they suffer, partly because of inaccessibility to modern medical practitioners, high costs of modern of drugs and some are just out of common practice.

In the western part of Tanzania, the practice and use of these traditional medicines have gone as far as to be used to cure diseases associated with AIDS. Cyprian seeks to establish the basics as to how traditional medicines used in this region work and whether they can be authorized for wider and commercial use. Specifically, he is studying traditional medicines plants used by healers in Bukoba region Tanzania to manage HIV/AIDS disease.

The analysis involves antioxidant potential of the plants (DPPH and FRAP assays) and Cytotoxicity of the plants extracts (MTT and XTT assays). Also, the analysis of plants ability to inhibit HIV-1 virus by anti HIV-1 Protease inhibition assay and anti HIV-1 reverse transcriptase assay is/will be conducted. The last stage for this phase will be to use biochemical methods to find out what compounds in these plants give them their medicinal potential. This study will probably be an important step in the fight against HIV/AIDS, looking forward to it and its results.

NOTE; The research study has  been and is still taking place in two Universities laboratories, at University of Pretoria in South Africa, and University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, under the supervision of outstanding Professors.

Lucia Kabanga

Lucia Kabanga

Lucia KabangaMSc Student at University of MalawiMalawi.

Study: Phytochemical and Biological studies of secondary metabolites from Clinopodium vernayanum and Justicia Striata 

Category: Health

Her study revolves around the composition and biological activities of two plants (Scientific names: C. vernayanum and Justicia Striata) that grow on Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve in Malawi.

For long time, the people around the mountain have been consuming the mentioned plants as vegetables and also as medicines for various diseases. The main objective of this study is to find out what give these plants their medicinal properties so as to encourage their use, not only to the local people but to wider community too.

So far what has been done is the analysis of the minerals found in the two plants and their phytochemical analysis. Results show these plants could be a good source of dietary minerals and they also have an important phytochemical known as Alkaloids and Saponins. These compounds are known to be responsible for different medicinal properties shown by many medicinal plants.

The next step will be to establish biological properties of these plants, to determine whether they have antioxidant, antimicrobial and/or anticancer activities. The last part of this study is the isolation and identification of compounds found from the plants extracts. The process and the results of this study highly contribute to medicinal plants knowledge body.

Hattago Stuurmann

Hattago Stuurman

Hatago Stuurmann, MSc Student at University of Namibia (UNAM), Namibia

Study: Validation Of Medicinal Plants Used By the Nama people to treat cancer

Category: Health

This study investigates safety and toxicity of traditional plant medicines used by Nama people of Namibia to treat cancer as it also seeks justification for the use of these plants in treatment of cancer. The lengthy referral process to the nearest medical center (clinic or hospital) especially in rural areas and poor resource settings results in the local Nama people turning to the use of traditional plants for treatment of cancer.

During the study, active compounds in some plants being studied have been identified. The phytochemical screenings revealed the presence of compound such as Coumarins, Flavonoids, Saponins, Alkaloids and Antioxidants.

These compounds are associated with various biological and medicinal properties. Preliminary results are promising and encouraging. My fingers are crossed for this one.

Any comment or question on these scientists and their work? Leave a comment below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.