November 23, 2017

5 Research Projects You Didn’t Know About

Ghana, a country commonly referred to as the gateway to west Africa is known for many things; gold, cocoa, a rich culture, friendly people and “the country which could have been just like Malaysia”. In terms of potential, Ghana’s potential is unlimited, with over 60% of the population been below age 30 and the country still buzzing from oil money. All it takes are a few steps in the right direction added to a few key policy implementations and we could become “the country that surpassed Malaysia once they got their act together”.

The constant comparison to Malaysia is down to two things; firstly both countries obtained independence in the same year and secondly both countries started out with a heavy interest in development through science and technology. Ghana however faltered along the way, but recent progress at tertiary institutions and government bodies suggest a shift  in mind set. Many researchers and organisations are committing and addressing issues relevant to the country at first and the world at large. The appropriate exposure and support could expand the works of these researchers, going a long way to better the livelihood of many across the country and indeed the sub-region.

Alternative electricity generation

Electricity generation by single adn double chamber membrane-less microbial fuel cells (RY Tamakloe and K Singh, 2013)

Who is up for a game of “Guess When?”. It is easy really, you guess when the lights will go out and I guess when the lights will come back on. Whoever wins gets to iron their clothes first.  Indeed the current energy crisis in the country has long since passed critical but in spite of this, many are working to find alternative means of generating power aside from the usual suspects; solar and wind. Researchers at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) are working on ways to improve the energy output from biomass. If successful, the Microbial Fuel Cells they work with which are not yet commercialised could become relatively cheaper boosting the commercial capability of these cells. A recent project supported by the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET) is currently training people to build similar items for the use of treating human waste and generating energy.

Herbal Tea – Made In Ghana

Formulation and sensory evaluation of herb tea from moringa oleifera, hibiscus sabdoriffa and cymbopogon citratus (De-Heer et al., 2013)

Tea is a stable drink worldwide which can be enjoyed in various forms, tastes and flavours. Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world with associated benefits such as anti-obesity effects and lowering cholesterol levels. With such a huge global market, researchers at KNUST are hoping Ghana can have a piece of the pie by formulating a new herbal tea from indigenous herbs; Moringa Oleifera i(Moringa), Hibiscus sadariffa(Roselle) and Cymbopogon citraatus (Lemon grass). According to their findings, carefully blending the three herbs (50% Moringa, 30% Roselle and 20% Lemon grass) produces a herb tea with an appealing colour, aroma, flavour, astringency and overall acceptability. The health benefits are implicit.

 

Living With HIV

Effect of HIV-1 and Antiretroviral therapy on semen quality (EA Ntim and K Bedu-Addo, 2013)

Gone are the days where been declared HIV positive was akin to a death sentence. Now due to various therapies and medications, HIV positive patients can be assured of a long life and attention has now turned to improving the quality of life. There is evidence suggesting that HIV infection negatively impacts on the fertility of infected males. A study by Dr. Ntim and Dr. Bedu-Addo at KNUST offered up supporting evidence showing that sperm motility, concentration, total count, morphology, vitality, volume and pH were all impaired in the HIV positive condition. However not to leave any patients in despair, they go on to show that Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy  (HAART) a treatment which improves the health of HIV patients can also improve the impaired semen parameters measured.

 

Tackling Yield Losses Of Cash Crops

Molecular characterisation of cocoa, mango, banana and yam isolates of botryodiplodia theobromae in Ghana (Twumasi et al., 2014)

Spend enough time watching GTV and you are bound to come across adverts for chemicals to protect cocoa trees from fungus. One such common fungus is Botryodiplodia theobromae which has a history of destroying large amounts of harvest leading to huge economic loss. A traditional method supposedly capable of curbing the spread of disease and fungal infestations is a mixed/inter-crop system, where a variety of crops are grown together on a plantation farm. As some fungus are plant/species specific, there will be low cross-infectivity and the outbreak can be contained. However scientists from KNUST and the CSIR obtained data that suggests that isolates of Botryodiplodia theobromae from four major cash crops (Cocoa, Mango, Yam and Banana) are not crop specific and can affect neighboring crops. This work will go towards informing best farming practices to protect and increase yield.

 

River Blindness & Parasitic Worm Mutations

Development of genetic markers for early detection and monitoring of ivermectin resistance in onchocerca volvulus and its implication for onchocerciasis control 

Onchoceriasis also known as River Blindness, is a disease caused by the parasistic worm Oncocerca volvulus and transmitted by the black fly. The warm infestation can lead to skin irritations and blindness. Currently the only drug available for the control of the disease is ivermectin (IVM). Recently there has been the need for scientist to ask the question, “What happens when the worm develops a resistance to IVM?”. Therefore there was the need to develop genetic markers to allow early detection and monitoring of any IVM resistance as its developed to enable control of Onchoceriasis and forestall any crisis before it hits. A team of scientist from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research set about to do just that. The project was a cross sectional study in 22 communities, involving over 2,000 subjects and assessing specific gene variations in the worm associated with good and poor IVM responses.