Analike Blom van Staden wants to find out if rooibos – one of South Africa’s biggest exports – can assist to stop loss of skin colour, a problem that affects many citizens.
Van Staden is a PhD in Natural Medicine student at the University of Pretoria, an institution where she got her junior degrees – a BSc and an MSc in Medicinal Plant Science. Van Staden’s research focuses on the effect of Aspalathus linearis, commonly known as rooibos, on hypopigmentation disorders, which involve loss of skin colour. Hypopigmentation often gives rise to other disorders, severely affecting the quality of life and psychological well-being of those afflicted, especially in rural areas where people don’t have access to treatments or cannot afford them.
Van Staden uses computer modelling to simulate the binding of the compounds present in Aspalathus linearis with the enzymes responsible for pigmentation in a human body, thereby linking the biological with the digital world.
She has published eight peer-reviewed articles and seven book chapters and presented her research at six local and three international conferences. She won the award for the best presentation by a PhD student at the 45th Joint Congress of the SA Association of Botanists, African Mycology Association,and the Southern African Society for Systematic Biology.