Metabolomics Research at the University of South Africa (UNISA)
The UNISA College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and the College of Science Engineering and Technology (CSET) is based at the UNISA Science Campus in Florida and conducts metabolomics research in various fields such as water, microbial, soil and plant sciences.
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) and Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) analytical tools are used to generate data for metabolomic analysis.
Metabolomics research covers disciplines such as: water quality, plant-pathogen interactions, the effects of climate change on medicinal plants, the effect of cultivation on South African medicinal plants, indigenous beverages, the effects of cultivation on Indigenous Leafy Vegetables (ILVs) and soil metabolomics (nutrient and microbial diversity).
Indigenous Plants Research:
There is a strong drive to exploit the biodiversity and develop the bio-economy of the country. There are opportunities for development of indigenous plants of South Africa used as medicine, food, beverages and other applications such as cosmeceuticals. Metabolomics is used as a quality control tool in cultivation studies on indigenous plants, which are newly introduced into commercialisation.
The effect of for instance the environment, soil amendment, natural soil environment, irrigation and seasons are investigated using metabolomics identifying major driver compounds as well as changes in the chemical profile and associated biological activity. Cultivation of indigenous plants is a challenging research field as very little or often no information is available on commercial production and quality assessment of these plants in relation to their beneficial use and chemical profiles.
Metabolomic analysis of soil investigating the nutrient and microbial diversity is another aspect that receives attention as an additional factor considered in plant metabolomics. This research area therefore investigates indigenous plants and the soils in their environment, focusing on useful applications, with potential to be developed commercially, with the aim of launching products containing ingredients or formulations from indigenous plants onto the market.
Establishing this pipeline of cultivation, quality assessment, formulation and eventually competing in the market are envisaged to provide sustainable job opportunities and revenue to South Africa.
Group leader: Indigenous Plants Research - Prof. Gerhard Prinsloo
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