WATCH: Walter Sisulu University researcher is aiming for a cure for dementia
JOHANNESBURG - Walter Sisulu University’s pharmagnostic researcher, Dr. Taiwo Olayemi Elufioye, is aiming for a cure for dementia as her research over the past three years into three plants could help recover memory loss through a ground-breaking anti-aging drug discovery.
Pharmacognosy is the branch of knowledge concerned with medical drugs obtained from plants and other natural resources.
In her research study titled: “Metabolomic Profiling of Selected Medicinal Plants With Memory Enhancing And Related Potentials Using Direct Or Hyphenated Spectroscopic Methods”, she used modern methods to identify active agents in some medicinal plants that have been used through the ages by African traditional healers either as memory enhancers or as anti-aging cures.
She started the research with an ethno-medical survey that lead to activity screening to identify these active plants. This was then followed by the process of bioactive compound identification using multiple scientific techniques.
“The main predisposing factor to memory loss is aging. Which means every single person is at risk of losing their memory as we grow old. We know the various challenges which are faced in Africa in terms of accessibility to medicine, unlike in the Western world. Thus, if we as Africans can produce our own drugs from our own resources, the impact can only be imagined both in terms of a better wellbeing as well as economic advancement,” Elufioye said.
Should the outcome of the research be successful, this discovery will be a major breakthrough in medicine as there is currently no cure for dementia. At this stage clinical trials have not yet started, but she told Business Report that partnering with a multi-national drug company would be a good idea, but she was not at that stage yet.
“With consistent and focused research, the drug will be available in another two years,” she said.
She recommended the documentation and conservation of our indigenous medical knowledge as well as the training of our traditional medical practitioners on modern methods that could enhance their practice.
“The aim of the study was to confirm the claims by traditional medical practitioners that the selected plants can enhance memory. Beyond confirming that these plants are effective, we also targeted identifying the constituents in the plants that are responsible for the activity. This is indeed a breakthrough. First, we were able to provide scientific justification for the use of these plants in ethno-medicine. In addition, the possible chemical compounds responsible for the activity were identified,” she concluded.