UKZN Virtual Graduation

Master’s degree earned for Gene Therapy in the Management and Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease

An elated Ms Siobhan Van Der Vyver celebrates her graduation with her partner, Mr Keagan Seddon.

Ms Siobhan van der Vyver graduated with a Master’s degree in Neurosciences within a year of embarking on her study titled, ‘The Long-Term Effects of Gold Nanoparticles as Gene Vectors in a 6 hydroxydopamine-Induced Parkinsonian Rat Model’ within a year.’ The star neuroscientist also graduated a year ago with an Honours degree in Neurosciences summa cum laude.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder hallmarked by cell loss and dopamine (DA) degeneration. Neuroinflammation has been implicated in PD; however, a window has been identified for therapeutic administration to prevent inflammation in the nigrostriatal pathway through gene therapy. Van Der Vyver’s study aimed to investigate the long-term effects of AuNPs in the striatum of a 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA)-induced parkinsonian rat model.

Van Der Vyver is currently working for a clinical trials company conducted clinical research. She said, ‘They are starting a new COVID study soon and will be conducting clinical trials on a new vaccine. I will be working as a central monitor. The role entails data management throughout the clinical trial to ensure that protocols are adhered to, databases correspond to source documents, ensuring all patients are eligible to continue throughout the study by assessing their medical records from their last visit and performing trend analyses and risk-based monitoring to ensure the integrity of the trials.’

‘The work draws on a lot of the skills I learned in doing data analysis throughout my postgraduate research, and the medical terminology that governs the industry. Working as a member of the Neuro team and doing continuous progress reports helped in the interview process and stood me in good stead as this job requires good communication lines between site managers and the clinical research organization. Also having gone through the process of writing and adhering to ethics protocols was an attractive skill to the recruiters, as the clinical research industry is very closely governed by legislation and regulations which need to be adhered to at all times’, said Van Der Vyver.

The former Durban North resident thanked her supervisors for their ongoing support. ‘I want to thank Dr Zama Msibi, my co-supervisor, for her time and patience during my postgraduate career as well as the many hours spent in the Biomedical Resource Unit assisting with specialized procedures. I appreciate her attentive eye for detail with regards to my written work. Her experience and knowledge of the topic contributed significantly to this study. I am also thankful to Professor Musa Mabandla, my supervisor, for his constructive feedback on results, and his eager desire to encourage independent research. His thorough approach to data capturing and analysis added great value to this study.’