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Women in Science: Two Cameroonians Win Prize

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In Cameroon’s rural north, a career in science is a rarity for most women. Two young women have bucked the trend, winning a prestigious science award on November 8.

Sabine Adeline Fanta Yadang, 32, a doctor of neuroscience, and Hadidjatou Daïrou, 33, a doctor of cellular physiology, have overcome societal prejudice to win the L’Oréal-Unesco Young Talent Award for Women in Science for their work on the power of medicinal plants. The two young scientists were chosen from among 30 scientists in sub-Saharan Africa to win the award on November 8 at a ceremony held in Botswana.

Fanta and Hadidjatou were praised for their work on the potential of traditional medicinal plants in Cameroon for treating cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. The two young scientists work together in the laboratory of the Institute for Medical Research and the Study of Medicinal Plants (IMPM) in Yaoundé, the capital.

Traditional, ancestral medicine is recognised as a health sector in its own right in the country.

Hadidjatou believes that the bark of the kola nut (Garcinia Kola) could improve cardiovascular health. Fanta is banking on tigernut milk, widely consumed in Central Africa, extracted from a plant that has been renowned locally for its medicinal properties for thousands of years.

 

In the face of expensive conventional treatments to slow Alzheimer’s, the researcher hopes to prove that this plant will make it possible “to combat the degeneration of neurons and reduce stress in the affected brain”. With the €10,000 and €15,000 grants accompanying the Young Talent prize, Hadidjatou will complete her thesis and Fanta will continue her research at the University of Ibadan, in neighbouring Nigeria.

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“The future of Africa is in the hands of its scientists”, says Fanta.


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