23 September 2015 Volume :3 Issue :44

Honours and Recognition for Excellent Doctoral Research by UKZN Lecturer

Honours and Recognition for Excellent Doctoral Research by UKZN Lecturer
Ms Lihle Qulu.

Three top international journals have published the results of research by School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences (LMMS) Developmental Lecturer, Ms Lihle Qulu, who also won first-prize for her PhD research in the Credentialing Staff category at the College of Health Sciences (CHS) Annual Research Symposium.

What started out as her Masters research was converted into a doctoral study, because Qulu’s work is deemed to have the potential to bring more awareness for pregnant women on how to avoid stress during their term.

Her work is being supervised by the Head and Dean of LMMS, Professor William Daniels, and the School’s Academic Leader for Research, Dr Musa Mabandla.

The international multidisciplinary journal, Brain Research, published one of Qulu’s papers titled: “Exposure to Prenatal Stress has Deleterious Effects on Hippocampal Function in a Febrile Seizure Rat Model”.

‘The study found that febrile seizures were exacerbated by exposure to early life stressors and this may lead to the development of neurological symptoms associated with a malfunctioning hippocampus,’ said Qulu.

Neuroscience Research published another paper: Searsia Chirindensis Reverses the Potentiating Effect of Prenatal Stress on the Development of Febrile Seizures and Decreased Plasmainterleukin-1 _ Levels. 

‘Our data showed that treatment with Searsia reduced interleukin-1 _ levels in plasma of the febrile seizure rats and prevented lipid peroxidation in the liver. Prenatal stress is dampened by the beneficial effects of Searsia on seizure development in rat pups. These results highlight the potentiating effects of Searsia in the reversal of febrile seizures and prenatal stress effects,’ said Qulu.

The third paper, co-authored with Mabandla, appeared in the journal: Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Titled: “Prenatal Stress and Early Life Febrile Convulsions Compromise Hippocampal Genes MeCP2/REST Function in Mid-Adolescent Life of Sprague-Dawley Rats”, it reported that exposure to prenatal stress and febrile seizures could impair cognitive behavioural function. However, in the normally reared animals with febrile seizures, there seemed to be an attempt to counteract the effects of febrile seizures with time.

‘It’s a “pinch myself feeling” yet at the same time it makes one feel proud, humbled and excited that all the hard work paid off,’ said Qulu. ‘At times things were so tough I didn’t think my work would get published, so it’s super exciting. It also makes me very grateful for the supervisors I have because without them this would not have been possible. Their support means a great deal to me.’

During her research, she spent four-months at a laboratory in the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary in Canada where she received special training related to seizures and neuroimmune function under the auspices of Professor Quentin Pittman. ‘Studying abroad made me realise that our work and the techniques we use are internationally relevant.’

Qulu intends to go overseas to pursue postdoctoral research in translational neuroscience.

Lunga Memela

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