Prof. Huisamen is the chief specialist scientist with the Sa MRC in the Biomedical research and innovation platform and is an associate professor in the Biomedical Sciences department, division of medical physiology of the faculty of medicine and health Sciences at the Stellenbosch university. Prof. Huisamen is internationally recognised for her scientific contribution, with over 60 peer-reviewed journal publications, an array of research collaborations and many local and international conference presentations under her belt, it is no wonder that she is being honoured by the society.
She has two research fields of interest whose outcomes may possibly find themselves’ crossing paths further downstream. one focuses purely on basic science research into the cardiovascular complications associated with obesity and insulin resistance, hypertension and type 2 diabetes while the other involves studying potential nutraceuticals that can be used to successfully treat these diseases. the former research project investigates a protein that forms part of the dna repair system, the ataxia telangiectasia mutated (atm) protein. it is the central role player in a genetic disease called ataxia telangiectasia, where the afflicted person expresses atm in very low levels as a truncated, malfunctional protein. these patients have a very high incidence of type 2 diabetes and ischaemic heart disease. atm is also a cytosolic signalling protein that her research group has shown is a prerequisite for glucose uptake in cardiomyocytes and are currently attempting to elucidate the importance of this protein in obesity. the nutraceutical projects are pre-clinical studies and aims to (i) characterize mitophagy in the heart
With respect to ischemia- reperfusion injury and whether melatonin as antioxidant, could modulate this process, and (ii) to demonstrate the cardio- protective effects of aspalathin, the main bioflavonoid of rooibos herbal tea, with respect to obesity and insulin resistance.
Her primary source of motivation is quite elementary and pure; she really loves and enjoys her work and research. She explains the source of her dedication: “It is always like building this huge puzzle where each little bit of information, helps to generate a clearer, larger picture. I love recognizing interesting gaps in our knowledge and developing questions to investigate this.” the reasons for her inspiration and success came from the people who surround her everyday whether at work or at home. Prof. Huisamen acknowledges the positive impact the people in her physiology department has had and sees her husband’s insatiable search for knowledge as a powerful motivation to keep searching for answers within her own field.
Looking toward the future, she intends completing her projects’ milestones and would like to publish more journal articles as well as guide and support her postgraduate students to ensure that they have secure career paths in science. when asked about passions aside from research she quips, “I can only smile at this question as I have very little time for hobbies!” prof Huisamen’s husband is a pastor and she helps with overseeing the relevant parts of their congregation, for example she does the music ministry and loves to play the keyboard. She confesses that she loves reading non-fictional novels as a pastime and also to watch scary movies.