University of Ghana Host Prof. Peter Agre, 2003 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry
Professor Peter Agre
University of Ghana had the privilege of hosting Professor Peter Agre, a 2003 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and the Director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute at the Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. He graced and delivered the 7th in the series Vice-Chancellor’s Occasional Lecture on the topic “Aquaporin water channels: From atomic structure to malaria”.
The programme was chaired by, Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, Vice Chancellor, University of Ghana, with the support of Professor Gordon Awandare, Head of the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, School of Biological Sciences, and the Director of the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) and Dr. Thomas Maina Kariuki, Executive Director AAS and Director of Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA).
Professor Gordon Awandare
Professor Gordon Awandare, in his opening remarks warmly welcomed all participants and gave a brief history of WACCBIP in building capacity for malaria control by training advanced level scientists within the African continent. He made mention of the annual Wellcome Trust Developing Excellence in Leadership Training and Science (DELTAS) grantees meeting which is the first time one of the grantee institution is hosting such an honorable programme in Africa and Ghana was privileged to host it. He thanked AESA for inviting Professor Peter Agre to the University of Ghana to interact with the University community and stated this as a stepping stone.
Dr Thomas Maina Kariuki
Dr Thomas Maina Kariuki, Interim Executive Director and Director of Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), was delighted to be present at such an august occasion which seeks to contribute to science knowledge and research in the continent. He reiterated AESA’s commitments to science in Africa to produce great quality scientist to inspire and mentor many young people.
Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, Vice Chancellor, University of Ghana
The Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, was of the view that such noble lectures are essential and internationally credible for University of Ghana’s goal of being a world-class status. He was enthusiastic that it will build a network that will identify more opportunities.
Professor Peter Agre, 2003 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Prof. Agre shared his story of how Aquaporin was discovered. He noted that this serendipitous observation was made while studying human rhesus blood group antigens leading to the discovery of aquaporin water channels that control the cellular uptake and release of water in all forms of life
He shared the importance of water which is a major component in all tissues of the human body and other life forms like vertebrates, invertebrates, microorganisms, and plants. In his presentation, he described Water as the “solvent of life” which without it, there is no life. He enumerated that the human body is made up of two thirds of water, in addition the human kidneys filter and reabsorb about 180 liters of water every day which is why the discovery concerning channels in cell membranes was a big milestone in world history.
He further described that Aquaporin found throughout nature is responsible for the generation of all biological fluids like cerebrospinal fluid, aqueous humor, tears, sweat, saliva, and concentration of urine. In addition, AQP1 confers red cells and proximal renal tubules with high water permeability. Present in renal collecting duct, AQP2 is regulated by vasopressin to protect against dehydration. He added that AQP0 is also expressed in lens fiber cells, and mutations cause cataracts. Brain edema after head injury involves AQP4 in astroglia, and autoantibodies to AQP4 cause episodic blindness and paralysis. AQP5 allows release of sweat, tears, and saliva. Glycerol release by AQP7 in adipocytes and uptake by AQP9 in liver which maintains blood glucose levels during starvation
Prof Agre further enumerating the findings of his research, he indicated that Plants are known to express dozens of Aquaporins, which makes their tissue distribution well preserved. He was positive that Aquaporins found in microorganisms may prove to be useful targets for new antibiotic development. He was of the view that Aquaporins which is also the plumbing system for cells are implicated in many clinical disorders including malaria which kills more than four hundred thousand children every year. To this, he admitted that his interest in infectious diseases especially in Africa has led to the investigation of Aquaporins in malaria parasites, malaria mosquitoes, and cerebral malaria. This he said has led to further collaborations with African scientist whereby the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute (JHMRI) at the Bloomberg School of Public Health has set up a modern research campus where African scientists and visiting scientists study malaria drug resistance, mosquito insecticide resistance, and rates of malaria transmission. There is also an ongoing Fieldwork in rural southern Zambia and Zimbabwe. .
He ended his lecture by advising young scientist to take pleasure in what they do with interest and pursue greater heights.
Question and answer time
Students from the Biochemistry Department with Prof Gordon Awandare and Prof Peter Agre
Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oduro Owusu, making a gift presentation to Prof. Peter Agre