Maseno University

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Department of Medical Biochemistry

 

Knowledge of theoretical and practical aspects of Biochemistry is essential for students undertaking medical training especially for understanding normal body functions as well as for the diagnosis and prognosis of diseases.  The department offers medical biochemistry courses for students undertaking MBChB and BSc in Nursing Sciences during their first two years of study. The core areas of the courses include Basic organic chemistry, biomolecules, metabolism, molecular biology, molecular genetics, molecular virology, neurochemistry, biochemical endocrinology, drug metabolism, parasite and bacterial biochemistry. The courses are offered through didactic lectures, laboratory practicals, supplemental instruction, tutorials, peer discussions and computer aided instructions.The department also supports graduate students from different faculties and schools in the development of independent research projects in selected areas of biochemistry.

The areas of research interest include:

1) mRNA expression and translation,

2) Biochemical, immunological and genetic mechanisms of effector molecules, and

3) Protein biochemistry, Single-Molecule Fluorescence, Protein-Protein Interactions and Lipid Bilayer Dynamics.

 

1. mRNA expression and translation - (Dr. B. Nyambega):

Sub-species of the African trypanosome, Trypanosoma brucei, transmitted by tsetse flies, are the causative agents for African Trypanosomiasis, a neglected disease exerting significant mortality in man and livestock in sub-Saharan Africa. To date, the only few drugs available are toxic, expensive or significantly ineffective hence the need for new targets of trypanocides.  Our research focuses on specific molecular mechanisms in trypanosomatids including the ribosomal stalk, which plays a critical role during the elongation step of protein synthesis and the trans-spliceosome, a dynamic and flexible ribonucleoprotein-enzyme that removes intronic sequences in a regulated, stepwise process. There are key differences between the mammalian and trypanosome complexes, the characteristics of the proteins involved and their corresponding interactions with other proteins and mRNA. We are devoting our efforts and pooling resources with our collaborators to identify and characterize the protein components involved. If essential for parasite viability, such molecules could be targeted for a rational design of novel trypanocidals.

2. Biochemical, Immunological and Genetic Mechanisms of Effector Molecules - (Mr. Samuel Anyona)

Malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, and is among the leading cause of hospital related inpatient morbidity and mortality, especially among infants and children below five years of age and pregnant women. 
Among the life-threatening complications of severe falciparum malaria is severe malaria anemia [SMA; hemoglobin (Hb<5.0g/dL)], the common clinical manifestation in western Kenya.  Understanding the role of inflammatory biomarkers will help decipher immune dysregulation processes involved in severe malaria pathogenesis.  Current research interests, intercalated in a larger study investigating the ‘genetic basis of severe malarial anemia’, are to understand the roles of effector molecules in condition susceptibility to severe malaria outcomes in pediatric populations living under intense malaria transmission regions of western Kenya.  Specifically, we are investigating the effect of acquisition of falciparum malaria pigment (hemozoin) on the production of prostaglandin (PG)-E2 and cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 gene expression in children with SMA and their effects on the erythropoietic pathway.  In addition, we are assessing the role of variations within the promoter region of the COX-2 gene in conditioning the pathogenesis of severe malaria and effects on PGE2 production.  These studies will generate information that would inform effective clinical management of patients with poor malaria prognosis as well as identify potential drug or vaccine targets or molecules.

3. Single-Molecule Fluorescence, Protein-Protein Interaction and Lipid Bilayer Dynamics – (Dr. Wilson Okumu)

We are interested in studying protein folding and stability pathways using single-molecule fluorescence, circular dichroism and light scattering approach. Protein folding is a complex process. Numerous wrongly folded proteins, Alzheimer’s and Wilson disease protein, for example, have been implicated in a number of dilapidating diseases. The results from in vitro and in vivo experiments have indicated that the cell environment influences the stability and folding rates of protein. We are examining novel experimental approaches to give insight to protein folding pathways and landscapes. We are interested in the challenges a protein faces in its normal folding, refolding and function in the normal crowded cellular environment, and intend to develop intelligent liposomes to model cellular and molecular mechanisms that will form the basis of our studies in discerning protein-protein and protein-lipid interaction in real time and in membrane deformation that could provide insight into cancer development and metastasis. The application of an optical trap and single molecule fluorescence experiments in fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) will be useful in quantifying forces implicated in protein-protein interaction. This will allow measurements of individual folding trajectories for rare transient states.

 

Our courses are offered through didactic lectures, laboratory instructions, supplemental instruction, case based learning, question-based reviews, small group tutorials, peer teaching and computer assisted instruction.

Courses offered:
MBS 104: Medical Biochemistry I
SHC 106: Physical and Inorganic Chemistry
MBS 204: Medical Biochemistry II
MPS 305: Clinical Chemistry
MPS 306: Forensic medicine & Toxicology


 


Dr. Wilson Okumu

Chair of Department

Email: medbiochem@maseno.ac.ke.

Address: Department of Medical Biochemistry,

P.O. Box 333 Maseno

Qualification:BSc, MSc, PhD (Molecular Biology)

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Dr.Benson Nyambega

Email:

Address: Department of Medical Biochemistry,

P.O. Box 333, Maseno.

Qualification:

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Dr. Samuel Bonuke Anyona

Email: sanyona@maseno.ac.ke

Address: Department of Medical Biochemistry,

P.O. Box 333 Maseno.

Qualification:

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Department of Medical Biochemistry