Instrumental Access 2017
University of Lagos: Department of Cell Biology & Genetics
Meet our Partner
The University of Lagos (Unilag) is one of Nigeria’s largest and most competitive public universities. The Department of Cell Biology and Genetics is the only department of its kind in Nigeria. Undergraduate and graduate offerings include concentrations in Genetics, Cell & Molecular Biology, and Environmental Biology.
Areas of Research
Ongoing research includes studies focused on potential for natural products in treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and sickle cell disease; assessment of heavy metal pollution and air quality in Lagos; and developing molecular makers to identify genes that could improve crop yields and make them more tolerant to disease.
Finding a Safer Treatment for Sickle Cell Disease: Dr. Joy Okpuzor
Like many West Africans, Dr. Joy Okpuzor knows the tragedy of sickle cell disease firsthand.
“I have a deep passion for finding a methodical solution to this disease because I lost two siblings to this disease,” she says. “Currently the postdoc in my lab has a younger sister battling the disease, and an MSc student in my lab who also suffers asks me on a daily basis for study results.”
The urgency is understandable. Sickle cell disease, a life-shortening inherited blood disease, afflicts an estimated 2.3 million people worldwide, 80% of whom are sub-Saharan Africans. In Nigeria, around 2% of newborns are diagnosed with sickle cell disease each year.
With her colleagues at Unilag, Dr. Okpuzor has discovered a plant that might help. An extract from the leaves of this plant, Moringa oleifera, seems to prevent the abnormal cells from causing attacks in anemic rats.
Importantly, Dr. Okpuzor believes that the moringa plant extract, with a long history of use in traditional medicine, would have fewer side effects than hydroxyurea, the current drug of choice for preventing attacks. Hydroxyurea is also suspected to have long-term effects that may include an increase in the risk of cancer.
“Any natural product that could mitigate the effect of hydroxyurea would be a welcome relief to the families with sickle cell disease patients,” says Dr. Okpuzor. “At the moment, genetic counseling has only achieved very little with the educated members of the society. However, for the greater part of the population living in villages, positive outcome from this research would bring great hope and joy.”
The moringa plant could also be cultivated locally, producing a low-cost drug while also creating a source of income and employment. The plant’s benefits extend beyond medical uses; it is also used to purify water and its seed pods and leaves are edible.
Share this Page