Home > L'Oréal-UNESCO award for Neuroscience Institute Research Fellow to study ALS genetics in Africa
L'Oréal-UNESCO award for Neuroscience Institute Research Fellow to study ALS genetics in Africa
14 Nov 2019 - 14:15
Dr Melissa Nel, Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine and Neuroscience Institute Post-Doctoral Research Fellow (image: L'Oréal-UNESCO)
Dr Melissa Nel, Neuroscience Institute Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, is one of seven recipients of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science South African National Programme awards. This initiative aims to reach and empower women scientists across Africa and serves one goal: to highlight scientific excellence of female researchers in South Africa, in order to create role models, encourage other young women to become scientists, and empower women to shape the future of the continent.
“Women in science can change the world. They have the power to change the world provided they are given the means”
- Gilles Antoine, Country Manager of L’Oreal South Africa.
Dr Nel was selected for the scientific excellence of her work from over 175 applicants within the programme. A clinician-researcher, Nel's work is aimed at Investigating the genetic basis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in subjects of African genetic ancestry. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disorder with unknown causes and no curable treatment. Sufferers are condemned to a poor quality of life and a dismal prognosis, usually succumbing to death from respiratory failure within three years of symptom onset.
Using whole genome sequencing (WGS), Dr Nel will examine the DNA of patients affected by ALS to identify genetic mutations that may increase susceptibility to developing ALS. This study is pioneering in addressing the gap in scientific knowledge of ALS in African individuals and will contribute to global efforts in understanding the disease. The goal is to help African ALS sufferers in the future by informing the development of effective treatments and diagnostic tests.
Dr Nel, along with six other South African female researchers, were awarded a research grant at a ceremony held in Johannesburg this month. The winners will travel to Dakar, Senegal to attend the sub-Saharan Africa regional programme leadership training and ceremony. The training programme is intended to help strengthen their careers and empower them to further pursue change through science.