Groundbreaking cancer research at UFS


Duane Petrus

Researchers from the University of the Free State are optimistic that their recent discovery in working with yeast cells could be applied to human cells in order to treat various diseases. A new method of enlarging the inside of cells thousands of times using argon gas in order to move into the cell was recently discovered at the university. “This allows us to see the chemical changes that take place in the cells when certain drugs are administered or the cells become diseased,” says Professor Lodewyk Kock, head researcher.
This discovery could aid in the treatment of human diseases, especially cancer, by helping to reduce dosages in order to make treatment gentler on the patient and have an accurate view of how the cancer is being eliminated.

The technique used to enlarge the cells also caught the attention of researchers at the Mayo Clinic in America, with whom they will continue to work with. “The technique we have developed has enormous potential for cell research, whether it is for cancer treatment or any other investigation into the working of cells. We were able to see where no one has been able to see before,” says Kock.
Although the discovery was made while studying yeast cells, these cells are reportedly not very different to those found in humans, besides the fact that yeast cells have the ability to produce alcohol.

The discovery, admits Kock, is just the beginning in finding ways to make cancer treatment easier and more effective.
“We still need to look at various other cells, including animal cells, as well as the bacteria domain and different yeasts. So there is really plenty of work that needs to be done, not only for us, but the whole world.”
Other researchers from the university that were involved in this discovery are: Dr Chantel Swart, Kumisho Dithebe and Prof. Hendrik Swart.