Dr Duyilemi Chris Ajonijebu was always determined to venture out beyond teaching into the challenging field of research and proof of his success in doing that was evident for all to see when he was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy (Physiology) degree.
Ajonijebu’s PhD study, titled: Characterising Epigenetic Alterations Following Cocaine Consumption, focused on the epigenome as an interface where drugs and environmental factors interact to influence gene expression that determines drug-related phenotypes.
According to Ajonijebu, this is the first study to provide evidence that epigenetic changes associated with cocaine exposure in free or non-free living conditions can be inherited by drug-naïve offspring mice. His work further attempted to explain the patterns of inheritance – whether paternal or maternal.
‘The effective treatment of drug-related disorders is still lacking,’ said Ajonijebu. ‘My study shows the positive impact of social interaction in warding off the addictive potential of cocaine and thus the social status of drug users needs critical evaluation as it may help break the link between substance use and transition to dependence. Investigating novel drugs for this disorder should consequently be high on the priority list of any laboratory in this field.’
Ajonijebu thanked the South African Police Service, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, and his supervisors, Professor William Daniels and Professor Musa Mabandla of UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, for their support. He also thanked Mr Prenan Pillay and Dr Oualid Abboussi.
‘My doctoral training at UKZN opened my eyes to a new world and the experience has moulded me into a neuroscience researcher. My aspirations are to specialise in translational neuroscience-based research using gene-deficient mouse models with a view to providing solutions to rising human health problems.’
Words: Lihle Sosibo