I am mainly interested in neurodegenerative diseases, with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease. However, I am also interested in research that identifies ways to strengthen Africa’s neuroscience research.
Derivation of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines from indigenous Africans for Neurodegenerative disease research
The recent development of human-induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived brain cells has led to novel insights into neurodegenerative disease mechanisms and the identification of therapeutic avenues due to their ability to capture the genetic diversity of the patient’s population. iPSC cells can be generated from skin biopsies using reprogramming factors and induced into different brain cell types, including neurons and astrocytes. However, despite the significant progress achieved in the last decade in modelling diseases in the iPSC field, genetic diversity is not captured in the existing iPSC lines. Most iPSC lines are from the European Ancestry population. Few are available from African-Americans. Despite Africa’s human genetic diversity, there are only a few iPSCs from South Africans. I am interested in developing a human cell biorepository of iPSC lines from indigenous African to facilitate cell and molecular investigations of neurologic diseases and contribute to research diversity in AD and related disorders.
Mechanism of amyloid-beta toxicity in Alzheimer's disease
Developing a full understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the most significant challenges of our time. AD, which is the most common cause of dementia and a public health priority. It is characterised by Amyloid-beta and Tau aggregation and deposition in the brain. Recent evidence has shown that amyloid-beta aggregation can result in assemblies that are toxic in cells and animal models. I am interested in fully understanding the mechanism of amyloid-beta toxicity.
The function and aggregation of Tau in tauopathies
Tau protein is best known for its role in microtubule binding. However, my recent work and others showed that it has multiple functions in non-microtubular locations, such as the nucleus. In AD and many other neurodegenerative diseases, collectively called tauopathies, Tau aggregation and spreading has been linked with neurodegeneration. This is described as a gain of toxic function. Similarly, the loss of Tau’s normal function in brain cells has been suggested as the cause of Tau pathology in tauopathies. However, Tau’s normal role is far from being fully understood. I am interested in the mechanism of Tau aggregation and toxicity, as well as developing a full understanding of the normal roles of Tau in the nucleus. My work will eventually contribute to elucidating the contribution of “gain of toxic function” or “loss of function” mechanisms in tauopathies.
African Neuroscience on a global stage
Africa has the world’s largest genetic diversity, which is critical for understanding human health. Yet, Africans are underrepresented in genetic studies. Africa’s research capacity is also weak, partly due to low funding and inadequate research infrastructure. For example, even though neurological disorders are significantly high in Africa, the overwhelming majority of neuroscience research is carried out in the Global North. I am interested in gaining accurate and in-depth information on African Neuroscience research. The data generated will help provide ideas on how African research can be strengthened.