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Nigerian scientist develops cancer drug from African plants

A molecular biologist at the Center for Biotechnology Research, Bayero University, Kano, Mansurah Abdulazeez has developed a drug that can be used for the treatment of cancer.

The drug, the work of years of research by the Nigerian woman is however yet to be fully tested and used for the fight against tumours

But this significant breakthrough by Abdulazeez adds to several emerging stories of Africans doing great in the field of medicine.

The molecular biologist in June this year won a Nigerian National Research grant of $86,000 for her work.

She had also received a fellowship in Spain in November 2018, all towards her work.

Aim of research

Talking about her latest innovation, Abdulazeez in an interview with The Guardian in Nigeria said “My research is aimed at identifying potent, safe and effective anticancer agents from Nigerian plants.

We have screened and confirmed the cytotoxic activities of extracts of the drumstick (Moringa oleifera) and soursop (Annona muricata) trees as well as the native Nigerian shrub Peristrophe bicalyculata on cervical carcinoma and fetal lung carcinoma cell lines.

We also studied what anticancer mechanisms these plants exhibit. We found that these plants act in the body through a variety of mechanisms — there is no single mode of action for all plants.”

When asked about why she focused on African plants for her cancer research?

Why African plants?

Abdulazeez said “It is well documented that these plants have an enormous, largely unstudied anticancer potential.

Research into herbs such as Guiera senegalensis, which is used by traditional African healers and known as ‘Sabara’ by locals, has led to the discovery of several anticancer drugs.

In my view, this demonstrates how the study of African plants can result in the development of valuable drugs.”

Mansurah Abdulazeez said she grew up with a deep passion for science.

Passion for science

She said “Growing up, I always enjoyed science. I originally wanted to become a medical doctor, but I ended up studying biochemistry during my undergraduate studies at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria.

I got my master’s degree, and then my PhD there, studying anti-hypertensive and anticancer activities of African plants.

I was also a visiting scholar at Chiang Mai University in Thailand for six months as part of my PhD research.”

This month, another Nigerian woman pursuing her PhD in the Department of Chemistry, University of Ilorin was recognized for her invention.

Misitura Lawal-Arowona had developed an anti-tuberculosis metal drug that is potentially potent in the treatment of tuberculosis (TB).



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