Natural Product and Research
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Introduction

The material culture of nearly every civilization throughout the world is based more on plants than on animals. The people of the earth have long depended on plants for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, medicines, rituals and traditions. With their vast factories of chemical diversity, plants produce food and medicines by combining atmospheric gases, sunlight, water and minute quantities of inorganic nutrients. Indeed the crucial difference between the two life forms is that the plants produce while animals consume.

The food chain of animals, including people, ultimately reaches to the vegetation source. Diet often determines the behavior, activity level, migration pattern and lifespan of every human being. In this sense, we are what we eat. Beginning as fruit and vegetable gatherers, pre-historic humans slowly learned to cultivate plant species by systematically growing and harvesting edible fruits and nuts. The development of agriculture is a relatively recent phenomenon in human history. Modern agriculture techniques, including agrochemical and new genetic varieties of cereals and other crops have contributed immensely in increasing the feeding and raising the nutritional profile of the world’s growing population. However, in the process, people have lost both the traditional varieties of crops and the lifestyles associated with the traditional ways of agriculture.

People, moreover, rely on plants for much more than food and shelter. The plant kingdom helped meet the health needs of humans when no synthetic medicines were available and no concept of surgical management existed. Even today almost 25% of all prescribed medicines in the developed world contain ingredients derived from medicinal plants. The world has witnessed growing scientific and commercial interests in medicinal plants, mainly due to their immense economic potential and the widespread cultural acceptability of plant based products. An inventory of medicinal plants compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the basis of literature from 91 countries, including the classical Indian texts and Unani medicines, lists 21,000 species of medicinal plants. According to Pharmacognosist Norman Farnsworth of the University of Illinois, USA, there are 89 plant based drugs currently prescribed in the industrialized world. According to WHO researchers, about 80% of the 5 billion people in the developing world rely on herbal remedies for their basic health care needs.

More than 25,000 species of higher plants differ not only inform but also in biochemistry. The amazing richness and diversity of chemicals in the plant kingdom make a particular species of plant fit or unfit as food or medicine.

Human beings, who have interacted and depended on plants for tons of time, have acquired a great deal of knowledge about the plant world. Through trial and error, traditional medical healers and folklorists, for example, have learned to distinguish plants that have therapeutic actions from plants that are toxic or even ineffective.

This is indeed an exciting time in the human history when recent advances in molecular biology and analytical chemistry can be used not only to conserve floral diversity but also to, “prospect” the biochemical richness of plants for human use as food or medicine.

The developing world is rich in natural resources, including floral resources. With the long continuous tradition of plant use for a variety of purposes, the developing world is blessed with a potentially winning combination of information and resources. However, the South’s floral wealth has not been fully utilized for the benefit of its people. Unfavorable contractual arrangements with multinational pharmaceutical companies often have depleted this resource, leaving behind nothing but environmental degradation, lost traditions and dependency on synthetic medicines and canned food from the North.

Technology is of course important in natural product research. But I would argue that nature is even more important. More than 80% of the biodiversity found in terrestrial and marine organisms, fungi, bacteria, plants and animals has yet to be described by modern science. Global collaboration is the only way that the world (both rich and poor) can fully benefit from earths vast treasure of natural products, traditional knowledge and scientific research. Given the growing environmental stress being experienced by our planet in terms of loss of habitat and biodiversity, there is not a minute to lose!

Natural Products and Research Head

Dr. Joseph M. Nguta

BVM, MSc, PhD (University of Nairobi) 

Dr. Nguta has keen interest on Toxicological and Pharmacological evaluation of Botanical Medicines, Safety Assessment of Phytomedicines and Pharmacovigilance, Trace elements in pastures and biological tissues,Bioinformatics/Molecular targets for drug research and development, Infection biology/Malaria chemotherapy using Herbal Remedies, Ethno pharmacology as an interdisciplinary science View Dr. Nguta' profile

Teaching and Technical staff

Prof. T. E. Maitho

BVM, MSc (UoN), PhD (University of London)

Prof. Maitho has wide experience in Veterinary profession, Consultancy, University research, training and administration and community service. Prof. Maitho has conducted important research in clinical pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, evaluation of herbal medicines, phenylbutazone, phenytoin, pesticide residues in food and environment, Fluoride, Pyrethrins, aflatoxins, paraquat and toxicological evaluation of food. View Prof. Maitho's profile

 

Prof. James M. Mbaria

BVM, MSC., PhD (University of Nairobi)

Prof. Mbaria's research interest is pharmacology and toxicology of traditionally used medicinal plants, environmental toxicology and regulatory pharmacology and toxicology. Currently I am a collaborator in many
ongoing multi-institutional and multidisciplinary research projects.

Prof. Peter K. Gathumbi

BVM, MSc, PhD

 

(University of Nairobi)

Prof. Gahumbi has special interest in gross pathology,
histopathology, immunohistology, ethnoveterinary medicine and conservation of
medicinal plants. He has established a botanical garden of medicinal plants at the
college. Currently he is the Chairman of the Department of Veterinary Pathology,
Microbiology and Parasitology. View Prof. Gathumbi's profile

Dr. Isaac Mapenay

BVM, MSc, PhD

(University of Nairobi)

Dr. Mapenay’s research interests include: Agar diffusion and broth dilution (MIC) microbiological assay for antibiotics; Experimental infection models & Drug trial protocols (Efficacy, potency, clinical drug trials and safety/ toxicity; Pharmaco-epidemiology of trypanocidal and antimicrobial resistance in Kenya; Pharmocokinetic drug modelling techniques; Application and troubleshooting of scientific instruments: High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC); Gas chromatography (GC), Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS); Inductive coupled plasma (ICP); Infra Red spectroscopy (IS); Electron Microscopy (EM); Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR); Molecular biology techniques: DNA Plamid isolation and Profiling and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)-DNA fingerprinting; Antimicrobial assay levels in animal tissues using HPLC analysis; Toxicity testing using laboratory animal models; Acute (LD 50), Skin sensitivity, eye irritation, allergenicity tests. View Dr. Mapenay's profile

Dr. Mbaabu Maathiu

BVM (UoN), PhD

(University of Hawaii)

Dr. Mbaabu experience includes; Strategic Planning, Resource Mobilization, Conflict Transformation, Peacemaking and Mediation,  Environment policy formulation, Terrestrial wildlife and aquatic ecosystem health, Biodiversity information management, Biodiversity conservation assessment and management  planning, Red listing, Forest Certification and a Registered Lead Expert in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Audit (EA). He is an Environmental Veterinarian and a Senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi with vast experience in livestock health, production and livelihoods in Africa. 1988. View Dr. Mbaabu's profile

Dr. Daniel Gakuya

BVM, MSc, (UoN) PhD (University of Edinburgh, Scotland)

Dr. Gakuya has experience in Food animal medicine, Ambulatory clinics, Food Animal production management, Ethnoveterinary medicine and Research in medicinal plant products. View Dr. Gakuya's profile

Mrs. Lucy Mwangi

HND (Technical university of Kenya)

Lucy is interested in analytical chemistry, pharmacology and toxicology. View Lucy's profile

Mr. Kenneth Maloba

Diploma, HND (Technical University of Kenya)

Mr. Maloba is experienced in pharmacology, Pharmacognosy and toxicology. View Maloba's profile

Mr. Joseph Nderitu

Diploma (Technical University of Kenya)

 

Mr. Nderitu has vast experience in gas and liquid chromatography. View Nderitu's profile

Mr. F. K. Gitau

Medical Technologist (Technical University of Kenya)

Mr. Gitau is interested in microbiology, pharmacology and toxicology. View Mr. Gitau's profile
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