PROF A VILJOEN, NATIONAL RESEARCH CHAIR IN PHYTOMEDICINE was one of the keynote speakers at the annual research day delivering a presentation entitled: EVIDENCE-BASED ETHNOPHARMACOLOGY – EXAMPLES FROM AFRICAN TRADITIONAL MEDICINES.
For the very first time, the Faculty decided to present its two main stream research areas, Health Science; and Natural & Agricultural Sciences together and combine it with a parallel session where presenters had the opportunity to showcase the various techniques they used in overcoming teaching barriers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her opening address, Dr Vathi Papu-Zamxaka, Deputy: Vice-Chancellor Research, Innovation and Engagement, said problem solving becomes a creative process through research and development. “Outstanding researchers are also the best teachers and mentors for the next generation of academics and scientists in the workplace. Therefore, the Faculty Science must provide international- level research support to attract and retain the best and the brightest and to brand TUT as the place to conduct scientific research in the 21st century.”
This year’s winner in the Health Sciences section, Mrs Sowesa Kanama, under the guidance of Prof Alvaro Viljoen, Director: SAMRC Herbal Drugs Research Unit and DST-NRF Chair in Phytomedicine and Dr Ilze Vermaak of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, showcased her work to ensure the safety of herbal drugs and medicinal plants.
According to Kanama, many consumers use traditional indigenous plant medicines without knowledge of their toxicity. There is a scarcity of research exploring the safety of South African medicinal plants. Therefore, she designed her study to evaluate the safety of extracts prepared from 20 medicinal plants through in vitro cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, hepatotoxicity; in vivo brine shrimp lethality, zebrafish hepatotoxicity and zebrafish embryotoxicity test assays. The overall toxicity profile of the plants showed harmfulness in the different types of extracts.
These results could aid in predicting the potential genotoxicity, hepatotoxicity, cytotoxicity and embryotoxicity of popular medicinal plants.