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How ABU alumnus, Mansurah abdulazeez, is using African plants to treat cancer

Mansurah AbdulAzeez is an award-winning molecular biologist at the Centre for Biotechnology Research, Bayero university, Kano, who works to identify potent anticancer agents in African plants.

She is a researcher, a pacesetter and a role model for aspiring girl scientists, especially in Nigeria, where girl-child education is still faced with significant challenges.

Her research aims to identify potent anticancer agents in African plants. In November 2018, the government of Spain awarded her their Science by Women Fellowship. And in June, she won a Nigerian National Research Grant of 31 million naira (US $86,000) from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund.

Mansurah Abdulazeez’s background

Growing up, she always enjoyed science and originally wanted to become a medical doctor, but ended up studying biochemistry during her undergraduate studies at the great Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

She also obtained her master’s degree and Ph.D., studying antihypertensive and anticancer activities of African plants. She was also a visiting scholar at Chiang Mai University in Thailand for six months as part of her Ph.D. research.

Her research focus.

Her research is aimed at identifying potent, safe and effective anticancer agents from Nigerian plants.

She and her team have screened and confirmed the cytotoxic activities of extracts of the drumstick (Moringa oleifera) and soursop (Annona muricata) trees as well as the native Nigerian shrub Peristrophe bicalyculata on cervical carcinoma and fetal lung carcinoma cell lines.

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The team also studied what anticancer mechanisms the plants exhibit. They found that the plants act in the body through a variety of mechanisms — there is no single model of action for all plants1.

Why African plants

It is well documented that these plants have an enormous, largely unstudied anticancer potential. Research into herbs such as Guiera senegalensis, which is used by traditional African healers and known as ‘Sabara’ by locals, has led to the discovery of several anticancer drugs.

In her view, “this demonstrates how the study of African plants can result in the development of valuable drugs.”

Advice to young African women who want to pursue science

She advice young African women who want to pursue science to participate in local and international conferences that are relevant to their fields of study, so as to keep themselvess updated on cutting-edge research tools, methodologies and funding opportunities.

Always ask for support from senior colleagues — and family members — whenever you need it. Remain focused, tenacious and hard-working.”

About Chisom David Ozioko

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