Page 124 - UCT Research Report 2011

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UCT Research Report '11
UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine
The UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine is part of the Department of Human
Biology, within the Faculty of Health Sciences. The primary functions of the unit are to research factors influencing
physical performance and health, and to disseminate knowledge and skills through education. Specifically, the
research aim is to develop a novel understanding of integrated human function during exercise and to use this
knowledge to promote health and well-being; to treat and prevent specific chronic diseases; to treat and prevent
injuries and medical conditions associated with sport and exercise; and to optimise exercise performance.
Director: Professor T.D. Noakes E-mail: Web:
Research grouping
associated with this theme
off company set up by Professor Vaughan, this machine
combines digital X-ray with ultrasound to improve the odds of
an accurate and early diagnosis of breast cancer.
The PantoScanner is scheduled to go on the market in
2012, at which time its designers will also put the machine
to the test in clinical trials at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Associate Professor Douglas is also working with Lodox
Systems, the South African company that broke new
ground with its full-body scan, made possible through its
digital radiography machine. Her team, which includes
three postgraduate biomedical-engineering students and
two senior electrical engineering undergraduate students,
a radiographer, and research manager, are running a
series of projects as part of this collaboration.
This includes a study on reducing the radiation dose for
paediatric applications. Children are more susceptible than
adults to the harm done by the ionising radiation that is part
and parcel of such X-ray technology. In another study, they
are hoping to develop a technique for determining bone-
mineral density by measuring the amount of X-ray absorption
in the hand, an application that could be applied to the
diagnosis of osteoporosis, for example. They have even
incorporated cutting-edge gaming technology, building a
3D reconstruction of the body surface using the Xbox Kinect
camera system, to help doctors better target their scans to
areas of concern and so limit patients’ exposure to radiation.
So inspired was Associate Professor Douglas by these
industry partnerships that she signed up for an Executive
MBA at UCT’s Graduate School of Business. Her award-
winning thesis – she graduated with distinction and received
an Old Mutual Gold Medal for outstanding achievement
– was on the relevance of the university’s biomedical
engineering programme to health care in South Africa. Her
take-home message was that changes were called for – both
in curriculum and mindset.
“We need to orient ourselves not only towards doing good
research,” she says, “but also towards building our medical
device industry in such a way that these activities mutually
reinforce each other – not only through the industry being
able to develop the products of our research, but also
through its employment of our graduates.”
Justice for all
If his colleagues – such as Associate Professor Douglas
– are interested in finding ways to improve health or save
lives, Professor Alan Morris is concerned with justice for
those who could not be saved.
For many years now, Professor Morris, who leads the
Department of Human Biology’s applied anatomy and
biological anthropology section, is regularly called upon
by the Western Province’s forensic pathology laboratories
as a ‘specialist’s specialist’ – dealing specifically with the
analysis of bone remains.
Originally conducted as a collegial arrangement, when
the case numbers started increasing, the state recognised
Professor Morris’ laboratory as a specialist facility. More than
merely penning an addendum to the forensic pathologist’s
report, Professor Morris and colleague Dr Jacqui Friedling
can now sign off their own reports.
One hiccup, however, was that the group’s facilities did
not quite measure up to the medico-legal requirements.
Most notably, they lacked the space to store specimens
and keep separate administrative records.
In 2011, Professor Morris was finally able to shore up
capacity in his section; funding from the university
“We need to orient ourselves not
only towards doing good research,
but also towards building our
medical device industry.”