Top prizes for research with heart

30 October 2006

In 2005, the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) ranked cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in the Western Cape.

Three young doctoral researchers from the UCT Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research are determined to change that statistic, and have won prizes proving their unique skills.

Makhosazane Zungu won the Bernard Pimstone Prize as the best laboratory research presentation at the Department of Medicine's annual research day in September. Zungu is currently doing her PhD on the mechanism of cardiac adaptation by hypoxia. In November, she's off to Chicago to attend the conference of the prestigious American Heart Association. Admission is highly competitive as less than 30% of abstracts get accepted internationally.

In turn, Sarin Somers won the Wyndham Prize for the best oral presentation at the congress of the Physiological Society of South Africa in Durban at the end of September. Somers is doing work on postconditioning, where a person who has suffered a major heart attack will receive a series of induced minor heart attacks for a few seconds to a minute to strengthen the heart.

At the same congress, Hong-Kong-born Anna Chan, a new research assistant at the Hatter Institute, won the Johnny van de Walt Prize for the best poster presentation. Her poster dealt with the links between diabetes, obesity and ageing. Chan wants to extend her research to include the gender differences related to obesity, diabetes and ageing.

(Somers wants to thank his supervisor, Dr Sandrine Lecour: "Without her guidance I wouldn't have gotten so far." Chan and Zungu thanked their supervisor, Dr Faadiel Essop, for his excellent mentoring.)

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