Posted on February 21, 2016

The Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), one of Hamad bin Khalifa University’s (HBKU) three specialized national research institutes, is spearheading an major international research initiative on traumatic brain injury that will involve extensive collaboration between leading specialist researchers from around the globe over the next three years.

As part of its commitment to improving and transforming healthcare through innovation in prevention, diagnoses and treatment of diseases affecting people in Qatar and the region, QBRI will work closely with the Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Group at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht in the Netherlands on the research project, which has been made possible through a grant from the National Priorities Research Program of the Qatar National Research Fund.

In addition to the experts from QBRI and the UMC Utrecht, the multidisciplinary research initiative also brings together experts from Qatar University, Monash University in Australia, Istanbul Kemerburgaz University, and the Middle East Technical University in Turkey. Research will provide new knowledge on the processes that lead to loss and recovery of function after traumatic brain injury and will focus on characterizing the physiological, structural and biomolecular changes in brain tissue responsible for functional impairment. The QBRI team will focus on deciphering cellular and biochemical changes that occur in responses to traumatic brain injury and work closely with the UMC team to combine this information with brain imaging data to elucidate the molecular pathways that modulate brain cells damage and recovery, said Dr. Ali.

The Lead Principal Investigator on the project is Dr. Erwin Blezer, a scholar of immunology, neuroscience and physiology at the UMC Utrecht and the co-Lead Principal Investigator is Dr. Mohamed Ali from QBRI. Speaking on the significance of the ambitious research project, Dr. Blezer, explained: “The project will not only extend our knowledge on the development of damage in the brain after traumatic brain injury, but it will also lead to new insights into intrinsic recovery mechanisms.” 

More than 10 million people worldwide suffer from traumatic brain injury and the condition is now considered the leading cause of death and disability among people under the age of 45. In Qatar, the number of individuals affected by traumatic brain injury is nearly twice as high as in Europe; however with few therapeutic interventions available to protect the brain or facilitate recovery, inquiry into this issue is critical.

Attempting to provide insight into traumatic brain injury, the research project will use animal models of TBI and advanced imaging techniques to elucidate small-scale underlying changes at the organ, tissue and cellular levels. The work will be mainly conducted in the Netherlands and Qatar. “As the workings of TBI remain poorly understood, the studies conducted by QBRI and its partners may significantly advance knowledge in the field and reveal important targets for the development of effective therapeutic interventions” said Dr. Hilal Lashuel, Executive Director of QBRI.

Ms. Mylene Tewtel, Head of Grants and Contracts at QBRI, commented: “We are delighted to see our investigators actively engaged in such a multidisciplinary project in which the scientists from six internationally renowned institutes across four countries will bring their combined knowledge to pave the way for new treatments and management strategies while contributing to building scientific capacity in Qatar.”