Five Students obtain PhDs under the Supervision of Internationally Renowned Physiologist
Five youngsters graduated as first time doctors in their families – all under the supervision of esteemed Professor Cephas Musabayane of UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences (LMMS).
Musabayane’s research on alternative methods for the management of diabetes with novel formulations and medicinal plants made his mark in academia, focusing mainly, but not exclusively, on the study of renal function which is influenced by the nervous and endocrine system of the human body.
The new graduates are Dr Silindile Hadebe, Dr Andile Khathi, Dr Hlengiwe Madlala, Dr Blessing Mkhwanazi and Dr Phikelelani Ngubane, whose families and friends sung their praises as they were capped and hooded.
Hadebe from Mpumalanga in Hammarsdale completed research which demonstrated that pectin hydrogel insulin and oleanolic acid (OA) dermal patches had the potential to deliver insulin and OA across the skin and into the blood stream, lowering blood glucose concentrations and alleviating some symptoms associated with diabetes.
The study also resulted in two scientific publications titled: Transdermal Delivery of Insulin by Amidated Pectin Hydrogel Matrix Patch in Streptozotocin Induced Diabetic Rats: Effects on Some Selected Metabolic Parameters; and: The Effects of Transdermal Insulin Treatment of Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats on Kidney Function and Renal Expression of Glucose Transporters.
Hadebe is currently doing postdoctoral work at UKZN.
Khathi of Ntuzuma conducted a study which investigated the effects of triterpenes on intestinal glucose handling in STZ-induced diabetic rats because previous studies had shown that Syzygium aromaticum-derived oleanolic acid (OA) and maslinic acid (MA) used various mechanisms to lower blood glucose concentrations in experimental diabetes.
Khathi said the effects of triterpenes on intestinal glucose handling remained unknown. His study found that the S. aromaticum-derived triterpenes possessed anti-diabetic properties that arise, in part, through the modulation of intestinal glucose handling.
‘I am very grateful to all my friends, family and colleagues for the support that they have given me throughout my studies,’ said Khathi at graduation. ‘It feels amazing. It has been a long road filled with sleepless nights and busy mornings. This is genuinely one of the best feelings ever!’
The fact that high blood pressure is the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, strokes and heart failure as reported by the World Health Organisation, inspired Madlala of Mkhambathini to conduct a study titled: Mechanisms of the Cardiovascular Effects of Oleanolic Acid and Related Triterpene Derivatives.
Her novel research which investigated the potential of alternative medicine which would be accessible to communities from poor socio-economic backgrounds, introduced the first evidence that OA and its oleanane derivatives induced similar effects exerting multiple blood pressure lowering mechanisms while increasing the force of cardiac contraction ‘hence balancing the fluid volume in the circulatory system so as to avoid a state of hypotension’.
Madlala received an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship to complete a year of her PhD work at the University of Leuven in Belgium and is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cape Town’s Unit of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. She said graduating with her PhD was a dream come true.
Mkhwanazi’s study looked at using medicinal plants products and derivatives to alleviate kidney complications. He completed his research in light of the global pandemic of Diabetes mellitus, that kidney dysfunction accounts for most deaths in diabetic patients, and cognisant that a significant portion of South Africans still depended on medicinal plants as their mainstay treatments.
Mkhwanazi from the rural village of Ndulinde in Mandeni explored the effects of maslinic acid and related triterpene derivatives on kidney function of male Sprague-Dawley rats, providing the first report on multiple mechanisms that mediate natriuretic effects of MA and related triterpene derivatives.
The study indicated for the first time that MA reduced blood pressure while exerting no toxic effects to the kidney and liver cell lines. ‘Taken together, the results suggest that MA and phenylhydrazine (PH-MA) indeed may alleviate some complications associated with diabetes mellitus,’ Mkhwanazi reported.
‘I am really delighted to finally complete my PhD at UKZN. This is a huge victory, not only for me but for my family and my research group. This indeed shows that hard-work really pays off and I am grateful for all the tools that UKZN made available for me to complete my studies,’ said Mkhwanazi, who is now pursuing postdoctoral research in Physiology.
Research by Ngubane of Ngwelelzane in Empangeni, was titled: “The Effects of Insulin and Syzygium Cordatum-Derived Oleanolic Acid on Kidney Function and Renal Glucose Transporters in Diabetes.”
He said previous studies indicated compromised renal function in experimental diabetes and diabetic patients. Results from his study indicated that ‘insulin containing dermal patches increase Na+ excretion probably by decreasing plasma aldosterone and increasing plasma AVP concentrations of STZ-induced diabetic rats’.
Currently an Academic Developmental lecturer in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, Ngubane has published papers in the journals: Renal Failure and Plos One.
In his congratulatory remarks, Professor Musabayane said: ‘The students have worked very hard to achieve their goals and I’m happy for them.’