28 October 2015 Volume :3 Issue :49

Biochemistry PhD Student Wins Grant to Present Research in Canada

Biochemistry PhD Student Wins Grant to Present Research in Canada
Dr Shahidul Islam (left) and Mr Aminu Mohammed at work in the lab.

PhD candidate in the School of Life Sciences, Mr Aminu Mohammed, will present his research results at the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) World Diabetes Congress taking place in Vancouver, Canada, from 30 November to 4 December.

Mohammed’s travel, accommodation and subsistence costs have been sponsored thanks to a grant from the IDF - he is one of only 100 researchers globally to have been selected to receive the grant. Mohammed applied for the grant and was subjected to a rigorous selection procedure to determine the importance of his work and its relevance to proceedings at the Congress.

His congress presentation is titled: “Antidiabetic Effect of Acetone Fraction from Xylopia aethiopica Fruit in a Type 2 Diabetes Model of Rats”.  A version of this has been submitted to the Journal of Ethnopharmacology for publication.

Mohammed’s presentation is taken from his PhD research which focused on the development of newer, more effective and less toxic remedies derived from African natural products for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. By using African natural products as remedies, Mohammed hopes to develop therapies for type 2 diabetes that will not only cause fewer side effects than the synthetic or chemically-originated drugs that are widely used at the moment, but also overcome some of the limitations of these treatments.

This work has involved various in vitro and in vivo experiments to demonstrate the anti-diabetic activity of selected African medicinal plants as well as their mechanisms of action.

‘The work involved the challenging task of bio-assay guided isolation of the pure active compounds and the interpretation of the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) data,’ said Mohammed.

His PhD works have already borne fruit, with four research articles published in ISI-rated journals, and another eight in various stages of preparation for publishing.

One of the plants being investigated by Mohammed and his supervisor, Dr Shahidul Islam, is the Xylopia aethiopica, which is used as a spice in many African countries. Their studies have shown that this plant contains compounds which improve pancreatic beta cell function and prevent insulin resistance in a type 2 diabetes model of rats.

Mohammed, who is originally from Nigeria, said he was drawn to this field by the increasing prevalence of diabetes worldwide, and the undesirable side effects being experienced by many patients on currently available synthetic drugs.

‘This motivates scientists like me to search for novel molecules from natural plant-based remedies, since fewer side effects have been reported with the use of plants in the treatment of different diseases,’ said Mohammed.

Additionally, there is interest from the pharmaceutical industry in studies of this kind since plants contain an undiscovered wealth of potentially useful bioactive compounds for diabetes control, with relatively fewer adverse effects.

Mohammed said he was looking forward to attending the Congress and hoped his presentation and interactions with international colleagues in this field would contribute to advancing the quest for effective treatment of diabetes. Additionally, the scientific programmes held during the Congress to showcase the latest developments in diabetes research and treatment would contribute to enhancing the international standard of work being done by UKZN researchers in this arena.

Christine Cuénod

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