Six Friends Graduate Together at UKZN
The dream of six friends came true when they graduated together with PhDs in Medical Biochemistry.
‘It was a pleasure and privilege to work with such a talented group of individuals,’ said Professor Anil Chuturgoon, who supervised the group comprising Dr Shivona Gounden, Dr Vanessa Korb, Dr Niren Maharaj, Dr Savania Nagiah, Dr Charlette Tiloke and Dr Prithiksha Ramkaran.
Chuturgoon said his students ‘richly deserve’ their reward for the hard work and dedication they put in. ‘I am very grateful, especially to Savania, Prithiksha, and Charlette for going the extra mile and assisting Medical Biochemistry with teaching and postgraduate co-supervision.’
Chuturgoon thanked two of his previous PhD graduates, Dr D Moodley of the Harvard Medical School in the United States and Dr A Phulukdaree of the University of Pretoria’s Medical School for their active involvement and participation in co-supervision. ‘I wish these young and new graduates great success in their future,’ he reiterated.
Gounden’s study was titled: “Hyperglycaemic-Induced Regulation of SIRT3 and Downstream Antioxidant Profile”, published as three articles in ISI journals. The PhD will serve as a preliminary study for more epigenetic work, she explained, as regulating SIRT3 activity through chemical or natural therapeutics may be beneficial in improving several mitochondrial-associated diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. She said she also plans to get into clinical research in the biopharmaceutical industry.
Korb investigated the T-cell immune response to TB and HIV in her study published in three high impact factor journals. She said South Africa has the highest TB/HIV co-infection rates in the world, and both mono-infections are driven by pathogenic dysregulation of CD4 T-cells, uncharacterised in co-infection. Her study investigated the pro-inflammatory Th17 and anti-inflammatory T-regulatory lymphocyte response in TB/HIV pleural fluids and found that co-infection reduced T-regulatory stability, Th17 proportion and monocyte mediated skewing towards Th17 polarisation, despite suppressed localised immunity.
Maharaj investigated the clinical, biochemical, immunological and epigenetic factors in Black South African women with preeclampsia (PE) and HIV. The study found no adverse association of HIV/HAART on the clinical and biochemical features of PE. HAART modulated the proinflammatory cytokines and selected epigenetic factors – microRNA-27a and microRNA 146a in obesity and severe PE. Two manuscripts were published.
Nagiah conducted a biochemical assessment of stress response following acute and prolonged exposure to antiretroviral drugs (nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors) in vitro. Now a UKZN Postdoctoral Fellow, she said novel mechanisms of drug toxicity often pave the way for targeted therapeutic intervention. ‘Although it takes years before findings at the lab can be implemented at a clinical level it is a starting point.’ She published three high impact articles.
The antiproliferative and apoptosis inducing effects of Moringa oleifera aqueous leaf extract and its synthesised gold nanoparticles were investigated by Tiloke through modulation of oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes in human cancer cell lines.
Tiloke said: ‘The study established the use of Moringa as a complementary and alternate medicine in the treatment of both lung and oesophageal cancers. In addition, Moringa gold nanoparticles also showed potential in the treatment of lung cancer. Their mode of action was to induce cancer cell apoptosis with minimal effect on normal healthy cells. It can be concluded that South Afrca’s traditional tree can be used as an antiproliferative agent against cancer.’ She published three high impact articles.
Ramkaran examined genetic and microRNA polymorphisms in young South African Indians with coronary artery disease (CAD) following preceding research which confirmed that Indian populations worldwide have the highest prevalence of early-onset CAD compared to other ethnic groups. The study found that the Black South African population has a low prevalence of CAD and was used as a comparison study group.
Ramkaran said these genetic studies may contribute to a greater understanding of the genomic and epigenetic drivers of heterogeneity in individual responses to CAD, paving the way for personalised medical treatment. ‘Discovery of genetic susceptibility loci may provide a clinically useful genetic risk-prediction tool that will potentially allow identification of those at higher risk for CAD and early administration of therapeutics.’ She published four high impact articles.