Welcome to Stellenbosch University

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Department of Physiological ​Sciences​​

The Department of Physiological Sciences undertakes investigative research to better understand the health challenges facing South Africa. We have several research groupings - headed up by excellent principal investigators - that tackle a variety of disease states. Here the rationale is to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms that drive the onset of pathophysiologic states, with the ultimate aim of designing novel therapeutic interventions. The worldwide tendency in the biological sciences to work in multidisciplinary teams has also found expression in our postgraduate programmes. Research is done in collaboration with many international research associates.

The Department also hosts the Research Chair in Integrative Skeletal Muscle physiology, biology and biotechnology as part of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI).​


​Clinical hemorheology and coagulation group

We focus on blood coagulation, circulating inflammatory markers and how these play a role in inflammatory conditions like Type 2 diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriases and neuro-inflammatory conditions like Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. In this group, we strive to do impactful research, that will both add comprehensive and novel academic knowledge to the field of physiology, and to translate my research findings to result in a societal benefit, where the research innovation results in pioneering transformations to human health. The coherence of the group’s research is that biophysical and biochemical pathophysiology seen in erythrocytes, platelets and fibrin packaging, are a significant accompaniment to a variety of (inflammatory) diseases and the reason for hypercoagulability and aberrant rheology is in part due to circulating bacterial inflammagens. The technological innovation is to use viscoelastic, biomarker and structural readouts, to develop cost-effective nanobiosensors for early detection of disease risk.

CARDIO-METABOLIC research group

The research focus is lifestyle-associated diseases including cardio-metabolic diseases, diabetes and links with communicable diseases and psychosocial stress. These diseases remain the foremost causes of death, disability and morbidity in South Africa. In Dr Joseph's newly established research group they will investigate the infectious and cardio-metabolic diseases double burden, with focus on 1) cardio-metabolic factors that drive detrimental outcomes in SARS-CoV-2 infections and resultant COVID-19; and 2) novel links between HIV and cardio-metabolic diseases. Collaborations within the department, CARMA and elsewhere, allows further exploration into topics involving the cardio-metabolic links with psychosocial stress and with chemotherapeutic toxicity.


The specific focus of our research is to explore new avenues of chemotherapy and adjuvant treatments that would favour the use of lower chemotherapy concentrations with less side-effect to normal healthy cells, while maintaining satisfactory levels of cancer cell death.

Neuro Research Group

The Neuro Research Group (NRG) combines cell biology, cell physiology, microscopy and biochemistry approaches to dissect and investigate the relationship between protein degradation through macroautophagy and cell death susceptibility in neurodegeneration and brain cancer (gliomas). The lab focuses on macroautophagy (MA), chaperone mediated autophagy (CMA), cellular metabolism, mitochondrial morphology and function, tubulin and transport systems, the cytoskeleton and ATP consumption. Central to our approach is a dynamic perspective on the cell's function and its stress response using, in addition to standard molecular tools, high-end microscopy techniques.

muscle Research Group

Our research on the cellular and molecular aspects of muscle regeneration after injury is focused on human muscle cells, small laboratory animal models and cell culture, including primary muscle-specific stem cells. We study acute and long-term adaptations in humans to delayed onset of muscle soreness, with or without training interventions or change in nutritional intake. The immune system is intimately involved during muscle injury and inflammation, and we attempt to understand the positive and negative influences of specific immune cells and of oxidative stress. The analysis of exercise adaptations and muscle biopsies link this field of human life sciences to the research done by cellular and molecular physiologists.

cardio-oncology research group

Our research group focusses on understanding the side effects of cancer chemotherapy in the heart induced by a class of drugs known as anthracyclines. These side effects are commonly referred to as cardiotoxicity, a term that literally means "toxic to the heart". We study the molecular mechanisms that govern cardiotoxicity and its transition to heart failure by utilising both in vitro and in vivo models to simulate this condition.


This research group mainly investigate the links between mild systemic inflammation and metabolic diseases of lifestyle.  Some studies are focussing on diabetes, dysregulation of inflammatory markers in obese states, Parkinson’s, and red blood cell fatty acid composition in these disease states.  The role of body composition in predicting health risks and outcomes also forms part of the groups interest in the human physiology as an integrative unit.


In recent years, the emphasis in drug development has been the design of new delivery systems, rather than new drugs. Physiological characteristics of diseases bring about both challenges and opportunities for targeted drug delivery. Bio-Inspired strategies are being increasingly used for the design of advanced drug delivery systems. The BioIDD research group works at the interface of physiology, biochemistry, pharmaceutics and nanotechnology. The foc​us of the BioIDD research group is to harness the characteristics of physiological systems to tailor precision drug delivery systems for both communicable and non-communicable diseases.


This group focuses on electrical abnormalities of the heart. Disorders of the cardiac conduction system, often identified by characteristic features on the electrocardiogram (ECG), predispose affected individuals to cardiac events including syncope, cardiac arrest and, in the worst case, sudden cardiac death. This research takes a closer look at specialised proteins and processes that are key for a rhythmical heartbeat. We use a wide variety of molecular techniques in different cellular models including human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) derived cardiomyocytes​.


  • BScHons (Physiological Sciences)
  • MSc (Exercise Science​)
  • MSc (Physiological Sciences)​​
  • PhD (Physiological Sciences)​​​​
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