PhD Study Investigates Toxic Effects of a Food Borne Fungal Toxin on Liver Cells
Dr Thilona Arumugam’s PhD in Health Sciences (Medical Biochemistry) evaluated the effect of the food borne mycotoxin, Fumonisin B1, on epigenetic changes such as methylation, micro RNA and long non-coding RNA expression.
The study demonstrated that changes to one’s epigenetic profile through exposure to Fumonisin B1 may affect cellular stress response pathways such as DNA damage responses, oxidative stress pathways and cell death, leading to hepatotoxicity and possibly carcinogenesis. This highlights the importance of good food quality.
‘I have a thirst for knowledge and a curious mind. I have dreamt of becoming a medical researcher since I was a kid and obtaining my PhD is the first step in making that dream a reality. I am humbled by the unwavering support of my family, friends and supervisors. It was also great training in perseverance and understanding myself and what I am capable of.’
She hopes to continue to contribute to the field of epigenetics and its association with diseases and use as potential therapeutic interventions. She aspires to run her own research laboratory, conducting innovative research that not only contributes to the scientific community, but society at large.
Arumugam is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Virology at UKZN and volunteers at the University’s COVID-19 testing facility.
‘My experience at UKZN was a pleasant one that gave me the opportunity to grow as a scientist and opened doors to several new experiences. I am grateful for the support and mentorship I received from my supervisor, Professor Anil Chuturgoon and co-supervisor, Dr Terisha Ghazi.’
Words: Lihle Sosibo