Ms Irene Agbo (3rd year PhD student) in the Chemistry Department at the Nelson Mandela University (Port Elizabeth), expands her knowledge on extraction of Medicinal Plants.

The CAMAG HPTLC system equipped with CAMAG Automatic TLC Sampler 4 (ATS4), CAMAG Automatic Development Chamber 2 (ADC2), CAMAG TLC Visualizer 2 and CAMAG HPTLC Software (visionCATS) was purchased by the Chemistry Department through the HoD, Dr Buyiswa Hlangothi. Dr Hlangothi is the Natural Products Chemistry research leader in the Chemistry Department at the Nelson Mandela University (NMU).

HPTLC is an advanced Thin-Layer Chromatography technique automating a number of steps in order to increase the quality of resolution whilst, accurately estimating chemical constituents. Within the ATS4, the sample extracts are applied as bands for better separation onto the plate with a software-controlled applicator. Precision of the applied volume, exact positioning and compactnesss of application zone determines the quality of the final result. The ADC2 chamber makes the development step more reproducible and less dependent on human interaction. Chamber configuration, activation, developing distance and final drying can be preset. The progress of the development step is monitored. The Visualizer 2 is a professional imaging and documentation system for TLC/HPTLC chromatograms and other planar objects with a ‘state-of-the-art’ digital CCD camera, connected by USB 3.0. The visual presentation of the complete chromatogram showing all samples and standards side by side is one of the most convincing arguments for (High-Performance) Thin-Layer Chromatography thus, no other chromatographic technique can directly express the result as a colour image and make it available for visual evalution. The visionCATS Software organizes the workflow of the HPTLC analysis, controls the CAMAG instruments and manages data evaluation.

In the Chemistry department, the CAMAG setup is used for the key application of profiling of medicinal plants extracts. The Organic Chemistry module offers practical projects which involve the extraction of medicinal plants at Advanced Diploma and Honours levels. This instrument will be used to educate and train students to achieve optimal separation, better detection sensitivity than the classical TLC method and to semi-quantify and reproduce results. NMU’s research is based on phytochemistry of the Eastern Cape medicinal plants. HPTLC will be utilised for the future development of pharmacopoeia of the active extracts. Collaborative work with traditional health practitioners in the region is part of their plans.