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FACULTY OF health scienceS
Department of Human
Head of Department: Associate Professor
Lauriston Kellaway
Departmental Profile
The Department of Human Biology (HUB) includes
Anatomy; Biological Anthropology; Biomedical Engineering
and Medical Imaging; Cell Biology, Exercise Science and
Sports Medicine; Healthcare Technology Management;
Human Nutrition and Dietetics; Neurosciences and
Academic staff within the Exercise Science and Sports
Medicine Research Unit continue to be consulted on
various issues related to exercise science and sports
medicine and are therefore often in the public eye.
Professor Tim Noakes published another book with Michael
Vlismas “Challenging Beliefs. Memoirs of a Career” during
2011. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the
Vrije University, Amsterdam in October 2011 in recognition
of his outstanding contribution to the field of exercise
physiology and sports medicine.
Associate. Professor Malcolm Collins’researchgroup’spu
blished data has shown that the 3’-UTR of the COL5A1
gene alters mRNA stability in patients with Achilles
tendinopathy. This is the first functional data resulting from
the initial genetic study in identifying a risk for developing
Achilles tendinopathy.
Dr. Yumna Albertus-Kajee’sresearch has shown that
patients with chronic diseases have similar muscle activity
to healthy controls; however, in post rehabilitation, their
muscle activity decreases while their exercise performance
improves. This could be explained as a development of
muscle efficiency during exercise by possible changes in
muscle contractile properties. Also, patients with chronic
diseases have similar muscle fibre conduction velocities
compared to healthy controls. It is therefore possible to
conclude that no muscle myopathies are present in this
patient population.
In 2009, Dr Tertius Kohn developed and established the
first single skeletal muscle fibre contractile laboratory
in Africa. This technology enables the analyses of
contractile properties of individually typed muscle fibres,
investigating force production, contraction speed and
power generation. Dr Kohn has now established a
baseline of human contraction data to be used for
comparative purposes with exercised or diseased
muscle. This technique had been previously used to
investigate skeletal muscle myopathy associated with
rhabdomyolysis and overtraining in two South African
patients, and ongoing research entails contractile
properties in McArdle patients (collaboration with
Spain). Furthermore, in order to expand the current
literature base on muscle performance, Dr Kohn has
since investigated contraction in wild animals (lion,
rooikat, black wildebeest, etc). This laboratory (now
called the Myology Laboratory) has since expanded to
include muscle histology. Preparation, photographing
and analyses of histochemical and immunohistochemical
derived muscle tissue sections can all take place under
one roof. As of 2011, this laboratory is also used for
the advanced teaching of honours, master’s and PhD
Dr Ross Tucker and Dr Dale Rae initiated the Commercial
Research Division (CRD) within the UCT/MRC Research
Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine (ESSM) in
2011. The aim of the CRD is to take on research projects
commissioned and paid for by companies wishing to have
the claims of their products scientifically tested. To date
seven commercial research projects are underway, all in
various stages of progression.
The CRD is managed by Dr Tucker and Dr Rae, and this
year Dr Elske Schabort and Dr Yumna Albertus-Kajee
have joined the team as Researchers.
A commercial agreement for PeptoSport was reached
between UCT (Associate Professor Andrew Bosch from
ESSM) and the company producing PeptoSport, the
formulation of which was used in a study on recovery
in Sevens rugby players. Testing of the product is still
ongoing. The use of the product has also moved into
other sports, e.g. cycling and running (Two Oceans
ESSM and the sport Science Institute of South Africa’s
(SSISA) High Performance Centre are undertaking a
collaborative project with Jembi to develop an online
programme for managing rugby players with regard to
their training status and levels. The software is presently in
the testing phase, after which it will be launched.
In 2007 the Healthy Active Kids South Africa Report
Card –led by Professor Vicki Lambert of ESSM, and
in collaboration with Discovery Vitality and the Sports
Science Institute of South Africa, nine scientists from six
tertiary institutions, evaluated the current best evidence
available on the four major risk factors placing South
Africa’s children and youth at risk for chronic diseases
(tobacco use, poor diet, lack of physical activity and
obesity). The result was a Report Card, which provided
an evidence-based picture of the health and activity levels
of South African children. Professor Vicki Lambert and
other scientific panel members have shared the results
of this important advocacy document, which evaluates
the evidence, and provides recommendations to various
stakeholders, to improve the health and well-being of