African Medicinal Plants Reveal Anti-Diabetic Properties
The study of anti-diabetic herbal remedies and the identification of novel anti-diabetics derived from African medicinal plants earned Dr Auwal Ibrahim his PhD in Biochemistry.
Ibrahim studied at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria and chose to pursue his PhD through UKZN because it is a high ranking university and met his criteria of having easily accessible, modern research facilities and affordable tuition fees.
Ibrahim said he had always been a very inquisitive student, a trait which led him to study Biochemistry because it unveils the mysteries of life at a molecular level.
His research focused on the development of newer, more effective and less toxic remedies to combat type 2 diabetes, a global health threat, which could overcome the limitations of clinically available drugs. In his identification of the potential of African medicinal plants to provide new chemical leads, he used a number of in vitro and in vivo techniques to demonstrate the anti-diabetic activity of some African plants as well as their mechanisms of actions at molecular level.
The work involved the challenging task of guided isolation of the pure active compounds and the interpretation of the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) data.
Ibrahim is the first person globally whose research has identified the bioactive pure anti-diabetic agents from those plants which could serve as chemical leads for developing new anti-diabetic drugs.
His PhD work has yielded four research articles which were published in ISI-indexed journals and a book chapter, with more than 10 articles currently at various stages of the publication process.
He credits the influence of his late father with inspiring him to succeed academically, as well as his instructors over the years. One of these instructors, his supervisor Dr Shahidul lslam, said that Ibrahim’s study was remarkable not simply for its innovation, but also because two of his three PhD thesis examiners suggested accepting his thesis with no corrections whatsoever, while the third examiner recommended only a few minor corrections.
‘This study will strongly contribute in developing novel anti-diabetic medicines particularly from African plant origins, which will have lower or no side effects with better efficacy compared to the conventional chemical originated drugs,’ said Islam of his first PhD student’s research. ‘Ibrahim is a very hard working, obedient, honest and motivated individual with a strong potential as a future African scientist.’
Ibrahim is currently lecturing at the Department of Biochemistry at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, and plans to pursue a career in academia, allowing him to further his research.
‘I hope my research leads to the development and commercialisation of anti-diabetic herbal-based products that will be beneficial to poor diabetic patients,’ said Ibrahim. ‘I also hope that the identified pure compounds will be further exploited by the relevant stakeholders for the development of novel plant-based anti-diabetic drugs.’
- Christine Cuénod