Since the dawn of democracy South Africans have been making strides in the scientific, engineering and medical fields.
Professor Ncoza Dlova is one of the trailblazers in dermatology after she announced the discovery of a new gene mutation, a major contributory factor in the cause of permanent hair loss among women of African descent.
Dlova, who made the announcement last month, said this would not have been possible during apartheid due to a lack of opportunities for Africans to specialise in dermatology. The internationally renowned dermatologist collaborated with scientists in the US and Israel to discover the root cause of central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA), one of the most common causes of scarring alopecia among African women.
"This discovery is a first in the world, and it followed links to our earlier publication of 2013 in which we reported for the first time a familial association in a cluster of black South African families with CCCA. We have been following the 15 families for five years, and seven years later a gene mutation has been identified. This has huge implications on early diagnosis, prevention and possible future targeted therapy for CCCA," she said.
Dlova pursued a career in dermatology after realising that there was a shortage of dermatologists in the country.
"It's very exciting, for us to be able to do research in areas that we know are challenging in our own population. Trying to find solutions and answers to our own problems is validating and empowering.
"Focusing our research on relevant areas is also important for us. We should be the ones who are finding solutions for our problems," she said.