UKZN’s Physiology Students Stake Their Claim at International Conference
UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences students made substantial contributions on the first day of the 42nd Annual Conference of the Physiology Society of Southern Africa (PSSA) which had as its theme: “Physiology in Southern Africa: taking back the centre stage of human life sciences.”
Ms H Sibiya’s impressive study titled, “Evaluation of the efficacy of transdermal delivery of chloroquine on Plasmodium berghei-infected male Sprague-Dawley rats: effects on blood glucose and renal electrolyte handling,” generated a keen interest amongst the International and local delegates attending the session at Gateway Hotel, north of Durban.
The study investigated whether chloroquine (CHQ) delivered transdermally can reduce malaria parasites and avert the reported adverse effects associated with oral CHQ.
According to Sibiya, oral administration of CHQ evokes adverse effects on glucose homeostasis and kidney function in African children, probably due to high plasma CHQ concentrations.
She said studies indicate that oral administration of amidated-pectin chloroquine beads formulation sustains controlled release of CHQ into the bloodstream.
‘Accordingly, we speculated that CHQ, administered via amidated CHQ-pectin patch, sustains controlled release of CHQ into the bloodstream,’ she said.
She said the pectin-CHQ patch was prepared using a protocol previously described with slight modifications. Parasitaemia, blood glucose and renal function were monitored in groups of non-infected and Plasmodium berghei-infected male Sprague-Dawley rats following twice daily oral (30 mg/kg) or a once-off transdermal delivery (53 mg/kg) of CHQ.
Sibiya said these parameters were monitored over a 21-day period divided into pre-treatment, treatment and post-treatment. Transdermal delivery of CHQ and oral CHQ equally reduced P. berghei parasites to undetectable levels by day five of treatment.
She said oral CHQ significantly decreased blood glucose concentrations of both non-infected and infected animals.
‘Interestingly, the once-off topical application of the pectin-CHQ patch increased blood glucose concentrations of P. berghei-infected animals. ‘Furthermore, oral CHQ treatment was associated with increased urinary Na+ outputs and hyperkalaemia in both non-infected and infected rats. The CHQ patch did not influence these parameters.’
She said the study concluded that transdermal CHQ delivery not only delivers CHQ into the systemic circulation, but has the potential to ameliorate the pathophysiological effects associated with oral CHQ treatment.
UKZN student, Ms Rivona Harricharan, was awarded a Special Commendation on the second day of the Conference for her presentation titled “Tat-induced histologic alterations mediates hippocampus-associated behavioural impairments.”
The aim of her study was to provide insight into the fundamental behavioural and histopathological mechanisms underlying the development and progression of HIV-1 neuropathology.
According to Harricharan, the novel study directly highlights the correlation between hippocampal-associated behavioural changes with histologic alterations following stereotaxic intra-hippocampal administration of Tat protein in rats.
She said the implications of this study may positively impact the fields of immunology and neuroscience by encouraging future researchers to consider novel strategies to understand the complexities of HIV-mediated dementia pathogenesis.
UKZN Physiology Professor Mahendra Channa said the Discipline of Physiology needs to extend the participation of young members, hence the Conference theme – “Taking back the centre stage of human life sciences”.
Channa welcomed all delegates, saying his Discipline was proud to host the Conference which drew participants from almost all South African universities as well as those from Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Nigeria. They ranged from new researchers taking tentative steps at their first research forum to internationally-rated researchers who lead the way in their respective fields.
‘In keeping with one of the strategic initiatives of the PSSA, we have arranged a Young Physiologists Session to follow up on the one last year. We urgently need to expand the participation of our younger members in the affairs of the PSSA,’ he said
He said much introspection, debate and discussion is required pertaining to the future role of Physiology at tertiary institutions, hence the theme for this year’s congress.
In his opening address, PSSA President, Professor Faadiel Essop, said: ‘Our Discipline has had to take something of a back seat during the last few decades. This may be attributed to two significant developments over the last few decades, namely, molecular biology (the post-DNA helix discovery) and the “omics” eras. Although the latter includes invaluable techniques such as genomics, proteomics and metabolomics, these two “waves” of developments have unfortunately contributed to Physiologists and physiology as a discipline being increasingly marginalised.’
He said Physiology departments have gradually disappeared, now typically forming part of larger, amalgamated departments. ‘This of course has in some instances resulted in a sense of lost identity and also a feeling of isolation. This meeting is, however, part of a process of moving Physiology back into the spotlight,’ he added.
According to Essop the meeting provided an ideal setting for Physiologists to stake their claim and showcase how they can help integrate information and thereby help advance knowledge creation within the human life sciences discipline.