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Profile of Monique Zaahl
Dr Monique Zaahl is a senior lecturer in the Department of Genetics at the University of Stellenbosch for a programme of research into disorders resulting from iron overload. She has been involved in various research projects, investigating the possible underlying genetic cause of diseases. She is currently investigating genes involved in iron homeostasis/metabolism in hereditary haemochromatosis, primary iron overload and oesophageal cancer. These are common illnesses that impact heavily on general health and health resources.
The aim of human genetics research in general is to identify molecular markers to assist in disease diagnosis, improved treatment and counselling of patients. Iron deregulation has been shown to be either a primary or secondary cause of various diseases. Zaahl’s research aims to elucidate the specific mechanism of gene regulation in the presence of excessive amounts of iron. Among other things, extensive investigation into the molecular basis of iron overload disorder has provided new insight into the complexity of iron metabolism and related cellular pathways. Her work has aimed to determine the role of genes involved in iron homeostasis in a range of diseases where iron has been implicated, including primary iron overload, oesophageal cancer, porphyria cutanea tarda and multiple sclerosis. Results of this work have led to a better understanding of the patients and resulted in new standards of care.
She has established 20 research articles in international peer-reviewed journals, one book chapter and a review article in the field of human genetics and has trained numerous postgraduate students. Zaahl was also the recipient of the 2006 South African National Research Foundation’s Women in Science Award in the category “Best Emerging Young Scientist”, the South African representative at the International Council of Science meeting in April 2007 and was awarded the National Science and Technology Forum award’s category of Young Black Researcher in 2009. Zaahl continues to be a very active member of the human genetics research community locally and abroad and is a frequent participant in international conferences and workshops.