MUT academic enrols with top UK university for PhD

Nokukhanya Thembane

The University’s internalisation efforts are quickly gaining traction. The relationship between university staff and staff of other universities is taking shape. Lately, a staff member, an academic from the Department of Biomedical Sciences, received news that she was accepted by the University College London. Nokukhanya Thembane has already begun her PhD. Thembane will be studying with the University College London, and MUT. Thembane responded to call for a scholarship called the UMU StEP up – UKZN, MUT, UCL Staff Development Programme.

Thembane said she underwent “an intense” interview which comprised of panellists from all the partner institutions, “thereafter I was notified of the outcomes of my interview,” Thembane said.

Thembane’s  research topic seeks to investigate the in vitro and in vivo synergistic antidiabetic potential of the aqueous leaf extracts of Suthelandia frutescens and Psidium guajava. Thembane said she chose this topic to contribute to alleviating the problems suffered by people with this type of diabetes.

According to Thembane, diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease which is characterised by elevated plasma glucose levels. Thembane says the cost and side effects of modern antidiabetic drugs have become a major burden to patients suffering from diabetes, especially those from developing countries.

“As a result, medicinal plants are considered a favourable alternative for antidiabetic treatment in developing countries,” Thembane said.

Thembane said that in South Africa, anecdotal evidence suggests that medicinal plants are used in combination to treat diabetes.

“The price and facet effects of contemporary medicine has become a serious burden to patients affected by diabetes. There are multiple scientific reports on the effectiveness of medicinal plants in diabetes,” Thembane said.

However, continues Thembane, there is limited scientific data on the combined antidiabetic effects of these herbal or plant-based concoctions.

In line with being anchored in the community that MUT serves, Thembane’s research will respond directly to the sustainable development goal number three, health promotion and alleviation of disease burden that is a pressing community need. Thembane says that non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes are among the leading causes of death in South Africa.

The study will also seek to investigate whether the medicinal plants may offer an affordable treatment alternative, as the  burden of the multisystemic disorder diabetes, still lingers on the public health system. Also, As Thembane states, the study may be beneficial in formulating potent medications for prevention, effective management, and possible slowing down or total reversal of type 2 diabetes.

Further benefits are that the mentorship offered in the current programme will allow Thembane to develop her supervisory skills as “an aspiring research supervisor”.

Thembane also added that the skills transfer and knowledge transfer between the two countries allow for a mutually beneficial partnership between the institutions.

“The anticipated exposure to one of the best universities in the world, with sophisticated research facilities would allow an opportunity for our research to be ranked among the best,” Thembane said.