Emerging Researchers Awarded Grants

Three emerging researchers in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences (LMMS) at UKZN have been awarded UKZN internal Research Development Equipment (RDE) Grants.

The grant provides funding for research equipment costing more than R50 000 with the aim being to support research endeavours of the University through infrastructural development and provision of equipment as well as to facilitate research capacity development among emerging researchers and postgraduate students.

Emerging researcher and lecturer Dr Lindokuhle Mabuza-Mashaba of the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences received an RDE grant valued at R314 339 which will go towards buying Biofreezer equipment (ultra-low temperature freezer). As a newly-appointed emerging researcher currently involved in the supervision of postgraduate students, she believes the quality of research outputs and producing good research results depend on the proper storage conditions of biological materials or samples.

‘We have interdisciplinary research and student collaborations in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, therefore the equipment will be used by a variety of postgraduate students. There will be an online booking/reservation system for postgraduate students and young academics to easily access the equipment and in addition there will be dedicated technicians to ensure long-term sustainability and viability of the equipment.’

Mabuza-Mashaba holds a PhD in Health Sciences (2020), a Master’s degree in Medical Science (2017), an Honours degree in Medical Science (2015) and a Bachelor of Medical Science degree (2014), all from UKZN where she is also a post-doctoral research fellow.

Her research interest focuses on the use of metal-based compounds and lifestyle interventions in the management of pre-diabetes and associated complications and also to further investigate the pre-diabetic state as a therapeutic target in the prevention and management of pre-diabetes progression to overt type 2 diabetes mellitus using a diet-induced pre-diabetic rat model.

Mabuza-Mashaba is a member and founder of the Diabetes and Endocrine Research Society of South Africa (DERSSA), a member of the Physiology Society of Southern Africa (PSSA), and a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.

Mr Aubrey Mbulelo Sosibo, lecturer and PhD candidate in Human Physiology at the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, won a grant amounting to R679 613.20 which will go towards buying a Promega Maxwell RSC System. This state-of-the-art instrument is able to simultaneously perform high quality nucleic acid extraction and purification. Therefore, the equipment will enhance his research by minimising the chances of human error associated with the normal procedure for nucleic acid extraction and will also improve reproducibility of experiments conducted for research and academic purposes. Furthermore, the automation that is incorporated into the equipment will result in less hands-on time for postgraduate students and staff. Sosibo believes the equipment, will improve the diversity of techniques used in the School and foster collaboration within the College and the University.

Sosibo is currently completing his doctoral studies under the supervision of Dr A Khathi and co-supervision of Dr S Ngubane. His PhD study investigates the prevalence and correlations of pre-diabetes within the eThekwini district and the pathophysiological mechanisms involved in the development of pre-diabetes. He published an article entitled: Pre-diabetes and COVID-19, Could we be Missing the Silent Killer?, in an international DHET-Accredited Journal (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1535370220973451). The Experimental Biology and Medicine journal selected this article for inclusion in a press release (Developments in COVID-19 Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment) and was selected as a highlight article. His most recent publication is titled: Prevalence and Correlates of Pre-diabetes in Adults of Mixed Ethnicities in the South African population: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocol. The article was published under the BMJ Open journal, which is also an international DHET- Accredited Journal.

Mr Vuyolwethu Mxinwa, recently appointed as a lecturer in the Physiology Department in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences at UKZN, was awarded a grant valued at R561 125 which will go towards buying an ADVIA 2120i Hematology System with Autoslide. ‘The acquisition of this instrument will improve the quality of research outputs and further enhance the postgraduate training in the School. This instrument has the potential to drive a third-stream income, as it can be used to run haematology analysis for research institutions around Durban. It will boost the sourcing of potential of external collaborations with researchers from other institutions,’ said Mxinwa.

Mxinwa, a registered PhD candidate in human physiology at UKZN, is in the final stages of his doctoral studies. While registered as a PhD candidate, he has published over 18 research articles in the past three years, and has been actively involved in co-supervision and mentorship of MSc and honours students at the Department of Human Physiology. His research interest is on Metabolic Syndromes, Chronic Inflammation, and Immune Activation.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photographs: Supplied