Ukpai is a biomedical researcher and Junior Lecturer in the Higher Education sector with passion for excellence in research, teaching, commitment to integrating new technologies in the learning process, and a desire to inspire, motivate and empower students to succeed. His research involves using cellular in vitro models and human epidemiological studies to understand how natural toxins (e.g. mycotoxins) and other environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals (e.g pesticides) affect human reproductive and developmental health as well as cause other metabolic disease conditions such as obesity. He is also interested in antimicrobial resistance and the antimicrobial effects of plant extracts and essential oils.
The details of my current and future research areas are as shown below:
1. Impact of environmental and food-borne chemical contaminants on human health
Some food-borne toxins (e.g. mycotoxins) and environmental contaminants (e.g. pesticides and pharmaceutical products) are classified as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These EDCs potentially affect reproduction, development, metabolic processes, and/or behaviour by interfering with normal synthesis, storage, release, transport, metabolism, binding, action or elimination of endogenous hormones. However, many of the mechanisms through which these EDCs negatively impact reproduction and development as well as cause metabolic diseases in both human and wildlife are yet to be elucidated. Therefore, my research examines how these environmental and food-borne chemical contaminants contribute to poor reproduction and developmental health outcome as well as obesity and other related metabolic diseases through endocrine disruption, damage to reproductive organs and epigenetic modifications. The methods applied include mammalian cell culture, toxicological assays, high content analysis, reporter gene assay, steroidogenesis assay, and real-time qPCR.
2. Antimicrobial chemotherapy and Resistance
It has become widely recognised that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the biggest public health threats that mankind faces encompassing huge health and economic burdens on governments and societies globally. The development and spread of AMR has been attributed to the widespread and extensive use of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine as well as in agricultural livestock. Antibiotics are used in food animals to prevent infectious diseases likely to have risen under the modern intensive farming conditions. Such practice encourages potential pathogenic microorganisms to evolve and become resistant to many currently therapeutic antibiotics. In addition, AMR can be transmitted horizontally and vertically between animal species, and from animals to humans and the environment. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of antibiotics resistance, reducing the unnecessary use of antibiotics through antimicrobial stewardship and promoting the development of alternatives are among the key recommendations for immediate actions by governments worldwide. Therefore, my research is involved in understanding the molecular epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance as well as evaluating the antimicrobial property of various indigenous medicinal plants, traditional herbal medicines and essential oils for their potential application in treatment and/or prevention of infectious diseases in humans.
PhD Research projects available for self-funded research students:
1. The effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on reproduction and early human development.
2. The potential contribution of food-borne and environmental chemical contaminants on the double burden of malnutrition.
3. Understanding the molecular epidemiology and resistance mechanisms of ESKAPE pathogens.
4. Identification and characterisation of the active metabolites of local herbs currently used as anti-malarial and anti-microbial agents in Nigeria.