Ms Nompumelelo Gumede on achieving a cum laude Master’s degree in Medical Science (Physiology) said: ‘This accomplishment brings me tears of joy. Sometimes I scream internally: Girl, you did it! My master’s study was interesting but challenging – when I submitted my dissertation I was mentally and physically exhausted. Waiting for results was stressful although I knew I had given my all doing everything and more that was required of me. Now I am filled with joy!’
Gumede says she used a high-fat-high-carbohydrate diet-induced prediabetes animal model in her study which assessed whether during prediabetes there are any vascular and myocardial tissue biomarkers at risk of myocardial infarction. She found that prediabetes increases the risk for myocardial infarction through vascular dysfunction and myocardial tissue oxidative injury. Furthermore, the study demonstrated for the first time that plasminogen activator inhibitor 1, a marker for myocardial infarction, is elevated during prediabetes.
Said Gumede: ‘Vascular findings in prediabetes included an elevation of inflammatory biomarkers (C-reactive protein, interleukin-6 and tumour necrosis factor), endothelial dysfunction (decreased eNOS and increased ET-1), hyperlipidaemia (increased triglycerides, total cholesterol and lipoproteins) and impaired fibrinolysis (increased plasminogen activator inhibitor-1).
‘Myocardial tissue findings in prediabetes included an increase in oxidative stress biomarkers (NOX1 and malondialdehyde), a decrease in antioxidant markers (superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxide), and myocardial fibrosis. Furthermore, there was a positive correlation between cardiac troponins and oxidative stress biomarkers in the prediabetes group,’ she said.
‘In future I want to lead a cardiology research team and be a member of the South African Heart Association Board. I aim to publish work that will have an impact on the lives of ordinary people and also hope to establish an organisation that assists students who perform below average or just above average providing them with textbooks and extra classes.’
Gumede says since high school she has been aware of the need to get excellent grades in order to improve her chances of getting funding. Graduating cum laude was a reward for her dedication and resilience.
‘It was God’s plan that I studied at UKZN – the University has made it possible for me to be where I am today.’
She thanked her supervisor’s Dr Andile Khathi and Dr Phikelelani Ngubane who had been very supportive and understanding.
Gumede says there is so much to learn and discover in physiology. ‘The human body is amazing. How all the organ systems function together is mind-blowing.’
Her interest in diabetes stems from members of her family, including her mother, suffering from the disease. She says many families are troubled by diabetes so she wants to contribute knowledge and solutions to manage and prevent problems associated with the disease.
Gumede (26) is currently a PhD candidate and a teaching assistant in the Discipline of Physiology at UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences.
Words: Lihle Sosibo
Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal