The Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Department of Biomedical Sciences
The Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics is a research unit focused on two main fields namely tuberculosis and inherited genetic disorders. These two apparently different fields are united through the study of fundamental biology of nucleic acids and genetic material of both human and organism.
This molecular approach to research is enhanced through the use of modern laboratory techniques and collaboration with national and international leaders in the field.
Research projects are offered in the following fields:
- Genetics of Parkinson's disease: The only research group in South Africa working on the genetic basis of Parkinson's disease in the various sub-population groups and we are part of an international consortium called GEO-PD.
In the last decade this relatively common neurodegenerative disorder has been shown to have a significant genetic component and at least six causative genes have been identified. The aim of the research is to identify the genetic causes of Parkinson's disease in South African patients.
Identification of these mutations will facilitate improved clinical management of the family members and provide the option of pre-symptomatic genetic testing.
- Genetics of anxiety disorders: The research involves investigating the genetics basis of a number of anxiety disorders, with a focus on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a debilitating psychiatric disorder that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event.
Although a large proportion of individuals are exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, only a minority develop PTSD. This has generated a large amount of interest in identifying not only the risk factors involved in the development of the disorder, but also the factors that confer resiliency against developing PTSD.
We currently have a number of molecular research projects in order to identify these risk and resiliency factors, including genetic case-control association, gene expression and epigenetic projects. The data generated by the group, and many others around the world, looks promising, and may eventually allow us to create a profile of biological markers that can aid diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.