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Thursday, 30 September 2021

Two awards for young investigators

WINNERS: The two young investigators did CPUT proud. WINNERS: The two young investigators did CPUT proud.

Two young investigators from the Applied Microbial and Health Biotechnology Institute (AMHBI) did CPUT proud at the 1st Joint Conference of the Pan African Environmental Mutagen and Genomics Society and the Society for Free Radical Research – Africa.

PhD candidate Oiva Kamati was the winner of the Young Investigators Award: best e-poster for his poster titled: Effect of dietary rooibos on exercise-induced oxidative stress, performance and recovery.

Transdisciplinary postdoctoral fellow, Dr Donné Minné, was the winner of the best short oral presentation category by a young investigator for her talk titled: Long term implications of COVID-19 for dementia risk: in the context of early life stress - a proposal.

The online conference was held recently and AMHBI Director, Prof Jeanine Marnewick, said each category was judged by conference session chairs from Egypt, Mauritius and/or South Africa.

Kamati said his winning poster describes the research project he completed to address the question of whether Rooibos has a role to play as possible ergogenic aid?

“The study entailed a randomised, single-blinded, placebo-controlled crossover human intervention trial, where participants consumed a standardised rooibos beverage and snack before completing a set of exercises,” he explained.

“Blood samples were collected at various time points during this process to assess the potential protective and modulatory effects of rooibos on the exercise-induced oxidative stress, with an additional aim to also assess if rooibos may improve exercise performance and/or recovery after completion of the exercise regime.”

He said he was surprised when his poster was announced as the winner as it was his first time participating in an international conference.

“It really has motivated me and confirmed that the extra work and effort I had put into designing and making this poster paid off at the end of the day. This was the first-ever poster I made, and I used all resources at my disposal as well as YouTube to learn about scientific poster making and how to successfully convey my scientific message to the reader.”

Minné said her talk aimed to introduce one of their research proposals regarding the long-term implications of Covid-19 for dementia risk in the context of early life stress. 

She said the Covid-19 pandemic has several important implications for the field of Alzheimer's Disease (AD). 

“Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia in old age and it is linked to an accumulation of amyloid plaques and tangles of a protein called tau within the brain. There is still no cure and although its causes are exceedingly complex, the past few decades of research have really spotlighted the role of neuroinflammation and oxidative stress,” she explained.

“Particularly pertinent to South Africa is that numerous findings suggest that early-life adversity constitutes a critical underlying mechanism through which cells in the brain alter the sensitivity of the inflammatory response that goes on to influence later-life risk for developing the disease.”

 She said this means that the heightened, sustained inflammatory responses linked to Covid-19, the so-called cytokine storm, which activate neutrophils and mononuclear phagocyte system cells to produce high volumes of oxidative stress, are primed to potentially exacerbate AD risk and possibly accelerate disease progression in the elderly. 

“Any investigation into this topic will necessarily have to be an interdisciplinary initiative, and our hopes are therefore to capitalise on our lab's existing trans-disciplinary approach to understanding disease mechanisms in dementia. Our aims are therefore to adopt a mixed-methodology design in trying to assess whether a history of Covid-19 illness and early-life stress interact to increase the risk profile for Alzheimer's Disease.”

Written by Ilse Fredericks

Email: Frederickskennediji@cput.ac.za