Young Women Researchers Pioneering New KnowledgeGeneral

Dr Takshita Sookan (left) and Dr Tricia Naicker.Dr Takshita Sookan (left) and Dr Tricia Naicker.

UKZN’s College of Health Sciences recently funded seven studies through its Young Researchers Competitive Grants.

Dr Tashita Sookan and Dr Tricia Naicker of the School of Health Sciences were awarded R250 000 each for their novel studies in the fields of biokinetics and pharmaceutical chemistry.

Sookan, a Biokineticist, will conduct a study titled: “The Effect of High Intensity Intermittent Training (HITT) versus Steady State Aerobic Training on Endothetial Function, Heart Rate Variability, Microvascular Blood Flow and Metabolic Profile in Apparently Healthy and Insulin-Resistant Individuals”.

South Africa is one of the developing countries plagued by obesity, Type 2 diabetes and physical inactivity. Earlier studies have indicated that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with endothelial dysfunction, leading to vascular pathology that has been linked to cardiovascular, peripheral vascular and metabolic disease. Endothelial dysfunction can be regarded as a syndrome that exhibits systemic manifestations associated with significant morbidity and mortality.

Sookan’s study involves 120 participants regarded as healthy and insulin resistant. Subjects will be randomised into a high intensity interval training group (HIG) (n=40), steady state group (SSG) (n=40), and a control group (CG) (n=40). Both the HIG and the SSG  groups will complete a cycling training programme in two sessions a week for eight weeks. The control group will not undergo any training.

Baseline testing (5-7 days prior to the start of the intervention) will be performed to determine the subjects’ initial skin endothelial function, cardio-respiratory fitness, body composition, lipolytic rate and microvascular blood flow. This will be done again after the eight week intervention (72 hours post last training session).

Sookan will collaborate on the study with academics from UKZN, East Carolina University in the United States and the University of Canberra in Australia. The study will also develop one PhD and two masters students.

Said Sookan:  ‘I am really excited and grateful to the College of Health Sciences for the opportunity to participate in the grant writing process, particularly Professor Chimbari for giving young researchers the opportunity and helping us grow and develop as independent researchers. I am also motivated to start a new project post PhD and for the support of my multidisciplinary team. This is a good stepping stone for young academics.’

Naicker, an expert in applying organocatalysis to drug synthesis, will conduct a study titled: “An Integrated Approach for the Discovery of New Antibiotics”. There is an escalating worldwide need for the development of new effective antibiotic drugs which simultaneously target mechanisms of resistance, maintain a high degree of specificity and possess the desired pharmacological properties.

To meet this dire need, the aim of this project will be to integrate the four multi-disciplinary pillars of drug design and development (chemical synthesis, theoretical methods, biochemical factors and biophysical analysis) to provide new antibacterial drug candidates up to preclinical trials.

MaryAnn Francis