29 July 2015 Volume :3 Issue :35

UKZN Scientists Changing the Face of Histopathology in South Africa

UKZN Scientists Changing the Face of Histopathology in South Africa
Quantitative analysis of brain tissue homogenates including images of the mass spectrometry imaging.

Four Health Scientists from UKZN’s College of Health Sciences are changing the face of Histopathology in South Africa.

Histopathology is the science concerned with the cytologic and histologic structure of abnormal or diseased tissue.

‘Traditionally, radiolabelled compounds have been employed for imaging in drug distribution studies by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), autoradiography, X-ray computerized tomography (CT), and Positron Emission Tomography (PET),’ said UKZN’s Professor Thavi Govender.

 ‘However, these methods are expensive and only show total drug-related materials.’

Govender explained that matrix assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometric imaging (MALDI MSI) is a label free technique, which offers the advantage of determining the distribution of the parent drug and metabolites simultaneously. 

Govender in co-operation with Dr Sanil Singh, Dr Linda Bester and Professor Gert Kruger have recently shown that a combination of liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) with MALDI MSI provides better correlation than PET imaging technique. 

The researchers recently co-authored two papers visualising the time-dependent distribution of TB drugs, Rifampicin (Assay and Drug Development Technologies) and Pretomanid (Xenobiotica), in rats using this new specialised technique.  The aim of this study was to establish methods for the preclinical evaluation and localization of antibiotics in the rat brain and understand its potential to neuroprotection.

They are continuing to expand the study to include other antibiotics and the technique they are using has received interest from other disciplines.

Dr Nirmala Gopal from the College of Humanities is interested to establish which areas of the brain are affected by street drugs and whether the current treatment regimen provided by rehabilitation clinics also target those areas while Professor William Daniels of the Neuroscience Research Group wants to understand whether improvements can be made to formulations of drugs for Alzheimers disease.

The researchers paired the LCMS/MS technique with matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI MSI) to show the time-dependent manner in which the antibiotics are able to enter and leave the brain.

Without any requirement for complex pre-processing, the researchers were able to produce images with a relatively improved resolution and localisation compared to those acquired using more complex imaging methods in the study, showing MALDI MSI to be an invaluable tool in drug distribution studies.

 Lunga Memela

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