A new Ragon Institute-associated lab has been recently opened at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. The goal of the lab is to facilitate translational research in Africa by encouraging clinicians and scientists to work together to identify critical research questions based on clinical observations and identify solutions in the lab.
The laboratory was established and will be overseen by Dr. A. Tariro Makadzange MD, DPhil, a physician scientist whose research focuses on perinatally infected children and adolescents with HIV as well as HIV-positive adults with Cryptococcal Disease.
This new infectious disease research laboratory contains a tissue culture and processing lab; virology lab for viral load testing; and a 14-color BD Fortessa flow cytometer, donated by the Ragon Institute. The lab works in conjunction with the Parirenyatwa Hospital Family Care Center (PHFCC), one of the largest HIV treatment centers in Zimbabwe.
Using the new space and resources, Dr. Makadzange’s group has begun a study of immune responses among perinatally infected HIV-positive children and adolescents at the Family Care Center. The samples obtained from the clinic are used in a variety of immunological assays to generate novel data as well as routine monitoring of CD4 counts and viral loads, reducing the turnaround time for reporting to patients. Dr. Makadzange is planning to expand the lab’s research to include the study of HIV associated opportunistic infections such as cryptococcal disease.
Dr. Makadzange envisions the lab becoming a catalyst for expanding local research capacity and engaging medical students and junior doctors in basic science. This process has already begun with Ragon Postdoctoral Fellow Katja Kleinsteuber’s visit to the lab in March. Kleinsteuber helped set up the Fortessa flow cytometer and provided training for the lab’s technician.
In addition, Director of International Programs, Dr. Filippos Porichis, coordinated a semester-long rotation in the Makadzange lab for Ragon undergraduate student Holly Everett, who helped to prepare the lab to perform various assays and run samples on the flow cytometer. Dr. Makadzange is actively encouraging medical students and junior doctors to pursue their clinical questions through projects utilizing the basic science facilities made available by the lab.
With the advent of this new space for basic science research and diagnostics, Dr. Makadzange hopes to build local capacity in basic science, generate immunological data for a large cohort of HIV-positive individuals, and expand the clinical data available to physicians at PHFCC.
Pictured in featured photo: Kathryn Boyd, lab technician; Dr. Tariro Makadzange, Principal Investigator; Filippos Porichis, Ragon Director of International Programs; Katja Kleinsteuber, Ragon Postdoctoral Fellow; Holly Everett, rotation student.
Photo credit: Katja Kleinsteuber