Research Teams and Expertise

Cancer modelling, dormancy and proliferation

 Prof Werner Cordier
(Research Leader)
Prof Duncan Cromarty Prof Vanessa Steenkamp

Collaboration with: Dr Iman van den Bout (Physiology, UP)

 

Development of molecules that display anticancer compounds have typically been tested in a traditional culturing system, where cells are grown as monolayer cultures. Unfortunately, these culture methods fail to replicate the complex structure of cancer in vivo, including the ability of some to enter dormant phases and become resistant to drug treatment. Through the use of three-dimensional culturing techniques, particularly the liquid overlay method, cancerous cells are grown as a spheroid structure, where cells attach to one another instead of the culture surface. In doing so, these spheroids display characteristics that are more representative of the in vivo environment, including reduced drug susceptibility and the ability to enter dormancy. The research team focuses on establishing spheroidal models of cancer (primarily triple-negative breast carcinoma), and assessing their differential responses to anticancer molecules through investigating cytotoxicity, proliferation and proteomic changes.

Students: Mr KN Ncube (PhD); Ms Cara de Moura (BSc.Hons).

Drug discovery and development

Prof Werner Cordier
(Research Leader)
Prof Duncan Cromarty
(Research Leader)
Prof Vanessa Steenkamp
(Research Leader)

Drug discovery platforms are available within the department, focusing on evaluating the biologies activities of samples from various sources, including natural, synthetic and in silico-designed. This platform bleeds into the various disease states under investigation by the department, and thus is led by different individuals.

Health professions education


    

Collaborations with:

  • Prof Pieter du Toit (Humanities Education, UP)
  • Prof Dianne Manning (Health Sciences, UP)
  • Prof Alwyn Louw (SUN)
  • Dr Irene Lubbe (Education Innovation, UP)
  • Ms Clarisa Sutherland (Anatomy, UP)
  • Ms Josephine Najjuma (Mbarara University of Science of Technology, Uganda)
Prof Werner Cordier

Health professions education concerns itself with providing Students with the competencies and attributes required to function with the various health professions disciplines. Literature is rife with the potential implications of education on the quality of the health sector, making it an important area to place focus on so that patients may one day receive high quality treatment. Given the different ways in which health professionals are trained, the research team focuses on investigating the implications of curricular choices on the way competencies are gained, interpreted or benefited from. Aspects such as curriculum design, constructive alignment and innovative androgogy (including game-based learning and debating) are currently being evaluated within the parameters of pharmacology modules.

Hepatotoxicity

Collaborations with:
Dr Tracey Hurrell (Karolinksa Institutet)
Prof Duncan Cromarty
(Research Leader)
 

The main emphasis of Prof Duncan Cromarty's research for the next two to three years would specifically address proteomic challenges associated with hepatotoxicity assessment in both in vitro and in vivo situations. The main outcome is to develop a reliable model for early detection of hepatotoxic effects that include intrinsic toxicity, metabolic activated drug toxicity and secondary effect toxicity where the initial hepatic damage results in relatively slow but irreversible toxicity effects. Such aspects are addressed by cell culture, flow cytometry and mass spectrometry to assess drug efficacy and toxicity, and proteomic analysis to identify possible drug targets and effects of lead compound treatment. The research area collaborates widely locally and internationally with research teams.

Students: Mr A Ellero (PhD); Mr C Mashaba (MSc).

Medical pharmacology

Prof Kim Outhoff
(Research Leader)

The MPharmMed students conduct clinical research in diverse therapeutics areas including diseases, rheumatology, infectious disease, endocrinology, cardiovascular disorders, mental health and gynaecology.

Nanoparticles within drug discovery and delivery


 

Collaboration with:

  • Prof Mary Gulumian (NIOH/WITS)
  • Dr Charlene Andraos (NIOH/WITS)
  • Dr Melissa Vetten (NIOH/WITS)
Prof Werner Cordier
(Research Leader)
Prof Vanessa Steenkamp  

Nanoparticles, or particles that fall within the nanometer scale, are used for various purposes in medicine. Many functionalised or non-functionalised nanoparticles have properties that make them useful in direct therapy, or potentially assist with the delivery of other molecules within physiological systems. The research team focuses on determining the potential bioactivities within cellular models, particularly those that are cultured within three-dimensional environments. Bioactivity evaluated comprise the various ways in which cytotoxicity may be incurred (either in a cancerous or non-cancerous state), as well as the mechanisms by which such nanoparticles are taken up into cells.

Students: Mr S-F Fobian (MSc); Ms M Petzer (MSc).

Neurodegeneration and neuroprotection

 


 

Collaboration with:

  • Dr Jenny-Lee Panayides (CSIR)
  • Dr Darren Riley (Chemistry, UP)
Prof Vanessa Steenkamp
(Research Leader)
Prof Werner Cordier  

Life expectency has steadily been increasing over the past few decades, and as such, more and more neurological decline has been noted within our population. Diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's Disaese, is increasing within the South Africa population, and as there is currently no cure, these have become prominent focus areas for the Department of Pharmacology. The research team places emphasis on researching the models used to evaluate neurodegeneration, trying to increase their representation of the true molecular milieu in such diseases. Furthermore, these platforms are being used to evaluate the potential neuroprotective abilities of samples from various sources, including herbal remedies, as well as synthetic and in silico-designed molecules.

Students: Ms N Mullah (MSc); Ms RE van Zyl (MSc); Ms L Maboko (PhD).

Phytopharmacolog

 


 

Collaboration with:

  • Prof Paul Steenkamp (UJ)
  • Dr Sechaba Bareetseng (CSIR)
Prof Vanessa Steenkamp
(Research Leader)
Prof Werner Cordier  

Phytopharmacology, or plant-based medicine, is a research area that is of specific relevance in a country such as South Africa. It has been estimated that approximately 80% of the African population in developing countries rely on complementary and alternative medicines, including herbal remedies, as primary health care. Dating back generations, plants have been used to treat various ailments and are a rich source of phytochemicals, which has led to the discovery of approximately 30% of drugs currently on the market. The Department of Pharmacology’s phytopharmacology research team is led by Prof Vanessa Steenkamp, who is a renowned expert in the South African field of phytopharmacology. The team is focused on the determination of biological activities and toxicities of traditional herbal remedies related to their ethnomedicinal use, and to contribute to the understanding of the mechanistic action of these remedies in the treatment of disease. Another focus of this team is to identify, isolate and test phytochemicals from bioactive plants for a wide platform of diseases with no cure, ranging from cancer, diabetes, microbial infections, neurodegenerative diseases and wounds.

Students: Ms N Nzama (MSc); Ms C Van Ballegooyen (MSc).

Wound healing


 

Prof Duncan Cromarty
(Research Leader)
Prof Vanessa Steenkamp

Wound healing is a dynamic, complex process consisting of distinct, sequential, but overlapping phases. In an acute wound, healing proceeds in a predictable fashion, but can be hindered by external factors and patient conditions, resulting in the formation of a chronic wound. Chronic wounds have a negative impact on a patient's quality of life, which is estimated to be comparable with that of other chronic diseases. Consequently, wounds require immediate and effective treatment to prevent morbidity and mortality. Current pharmacotherapy of wounds is aimed at circumventing the effects of factors such as oxidative damage and microbial infections in wounds; these may hinder the progression of the healing process, compounding the formation of a chronic wound. These treatments are accompanied by numerous side effects and increased resistance, which is evident in the lack of a true gold standard for wound healing. The wound healing research group, headed by Prof Duncan Cromarty, is focused around the characterisation of chronic wounds and the development of emerging therapies, which rely on the stimulation of natural wound healing processes. This is achieved through the use of in vitro and in vivo studies which are coupled to cutting edge proteomic, metabolomic and lipidomic techniques.

StudentsMs B Manyakara (PhD); Ms S Mlambo (PhD); Ms H Parkar (PhD); Ms TM Lebepe (MSc), Mr J Snyman (MSc); Mr Calvin McMenamin (BSc.Hons); Ms Alex Marais (BSc.Hons).

Infectious diseases

 
Prof Natalie Schellack  

Her research interests are centred on the broad area of clinical pharmacy as related to paediatrics, ototoxicity and infectious diseases (e.g. TB and HIV). More specifically interested in quantifying antimicrobial utilisation data, pharmacokinetic and dynamic levels of antibiotics in blood levels. More recently her research area has been more focused on finding innovative ways of measuring antimicrobial utilisation using health technology. 

Prof N Schellack is a NRF rated researcher (C2).

Her publications can be accessed at Google Scholar  https://scholar.google.co.za/citations?hl=en&user=TC_vFwcAAAAJ&view_op=list_works&gmla=AJsN-F5OL67Zbd0GlNYxeQ1O4qqEUt7lLKQP2Inbk-s71hWV-klRnx1uSa4En5aEU2hkR8XrSxJgPRifSkCo0TKtqP735nq8RsG2P9Na6Qz2IUbI7OA6nxg

Research gate score is 33.45 and the information can be obtained at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Natalie_Schellack?ev=prf_highl

She collaborates both nationally and internationally based on the respective project.

Published by Magdalena Swart

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2021. All rights reserved.

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences