Molecular docking and molecular dynamics tools are used to unravel potential modes of action of bioactive compounds, predict preferred binding targets and explore events that mediate biomolecule-ligand interaction over a specified time period.
Chemicals such as natural products, peptides, essential oils and/or small molecules are either isolated from natural sources (terrestial and marine) or designed and synthesized, then evaluated for biological activities.
Our strategy involves constant monitoring of environmental concentrations of pharmaceutical residues and heavy metals, risk evaluation and the development of robust models to predict future environmental levels and effects; and remediation strategies
In our quest to obtain potent agents with various biological activities, we are exploring organisms from both the aquatic and terrestrial environments. Plants have been used since time immemorial by local folks to treat malaria and malaria-like symptoms. Following a comprehensive ethnobotanical survey, we have identified a set of plants whose extracts are being screened for anti-plasmodial activity. Potent extracts will be fractionated to isolate the bioactive compounds which will be characterized by appropriate spectrometric techniques. Some plants also possess volatile compounds that have interesting biological activities. In this direction, we are extracting volatile oils from aromatic plants and testing their antimicrobial and anti-parasitic activities in vitro.
In the marine environment, benthic invertebrates produce potent chemical warfare agents to ensure their survival in such a hostile environments. Our initial screens have shown that crude peptides and crude extracts from marine and aquatic invertebrates are rich in antimicrobial and antioxidant agents. We are working on isolating the agents for characterization and structure activity studies.
Most spices are consumed in Ghana because of the flavor and oomph they add to food, rather than their nutritional value. We are evaluating the proximate composition of some Ghanaian herbs utilized as spices and also study the antimicrobial and antioxidant characteristics of the extracts of these herbs.
Global climate change driven mainly by fossil fuels combustion is an increasing concern for all countries. Production of bioethanol from lignocellulosic material, particularly when renewable biomass resources exist locally, offers a method to reduce dependence on crude oil, decrease emission of fossil derived carbon dioxide and complement waste to energy efforts. Lignocellulose conversion to bioethanol is a more sustainable alternative to first generation bioethanol, and may become economically viable, particularly for the developing world. Pretreatment of plant biomass, which could be physical, chemical or biological, is an important step in the conversion of cellulosic material to ethanol. Biological pretreatment, which employs enzymes is far cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the chemical and physical pretreatments. These notwithstanding, enzymes, produced by specialist enzyme suppliers, are costly. Wood-decay fungi such as white and brown-rot fungi have been examined for their cellulolytic abilities. However, no native fungi has been identified and/or previously studied for their bioconversion of lignocellulosic residues to bioethanol. Our goal is to identify native Ghanaian fungal strains that have higher lignocellulose conversion efficiencies.
Pharmaceutical and personal care products have been labeled as emerging environmental pollutants due to their presence in environmental samples analyzed in various parts of the world. Though found in very low concentrations in soil and water samples, PPCP’s harmfulness stems from the fact that they have been designed to elicit responses from specific biological targets. In the absence of these targets, the effects of these pollutants are elusive, and can be only speculated. We are developing simple, robust and low to medium throughput screening protocols for the quantification of these analytes in soil and water samples. Models that will permit us to predict the fate of these PPCPs in our environment are also under investigation. Other pollutants that we monitor are heavy metals and xenobiotics in our environment. Activities of artisanal miners continue to increase the occurrence of these pollutants in our environment.
Research in our group is supported by granting agencies as well as generous donations from individuals. Granting agencies include the International Foundation for Science, Sweden, KNUST Research Fund (KReF), the DANIDA funded Building Stronger Universities (BSU) and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS)
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