Ms Arishka Kalicharan.

Research on the anatomy of the human foot has turned the dreams of UKZN Masters student, Ms Arishka Kalicharan, into reality.

Kalicharan presented the findings of her Honours research into the anatomy of the plantar arterial arch to the Annual Anatomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA) Conference in Stellenbosch, the 2014 School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences Research Day, and the 2014 College of Health Science Symposium.

The findings were also recently published in the International Journal of Morphology.

Members of Kalicharan’s family suffer from foot-related illnesses and this inspired the 24-year-old to embark on her research.

Supervised by the Discipline of Clinical Anatomy staff, Kalicharan found variations related to the plantar arch that have not been documented previously.

Her study discovered an added “irregular” to commonly known shapes of ‘obtuse’ and ‘spiral’ of the plantar arch reported in literature. This gave new anatomical insights about the form and shape of this area which would guide surgical procedures.

Now in its final stages, Kalicharan’s Masters research focuses on the ligament known as plantar aponeurosis – the thick band of tissue that connects the heel to the front of the foot.

Dealing with flatfeet and other illnesses related to the arch of the foot, the study analysed the ligament’s width, thickness, length in relation to the length of the foot, and positioning of the ligament from certain landmarks on the foot, looking specifically for any variations. It was also histologically analysed, examining the amount of collagen fibres present in the sample population for the understanding of the condition known as plantar fasciitis. 

Kalicharan, who is also involved in other research areas in the field of anthropology, recently conducted a study into the morphology and morphometry of the femur using dry bone specimens. She will present these findings at the upcoming 43rd ASSA Conference in Parys, Free State.

‘I have always been fascinated by the human body and its functioning. On my first day at the Discipline of Clinical Anatomy, when the staff introduced us to the Dissection Hall, I was in the frontline and from then I knew: “This is me”.’

‘It’s exciting to get your work published,’ said Kalicharan, who plans to enrol for her PhD in Clinical Anatomy after her Masters. She felt that while anatomy was still a scarce skill in South Africa, gaining skills and knowledge through an international PhD would be an added advantage.

Kalicharan says she is also passionate about wildlife preservation and is a Prestige Member of the KwaZulu Natal Wildlife Association.