Posted on February 22, 2016

Participants at a seminar on ‘Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine’ organized by Qatar University Biomedical Research Center (QUBRC) on Thursday were taken through the basics of stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSc) technology, and the principles of genome editing techniques. The seminar was presented by Dr. Hany El-Sayed Marei, professor and project manager at QUBRC, who provided a summary of his latest research relevant to the therapeutic potential of OBNSC-based therapies for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD) and spinal cord injury (SCI), discussing the major impediments against their successful translation into clinical.

He said that there are two types of stem cells in the human body: the embryonic stem cells, and adult stem cells. The embryonic stem cells, he explained, are derived from the inner cell mass of 5-6 day-old human embryo whose cells are very active and have the ability to renew themselves, and produce the different types of cells (more than 200 types) that form the human body. According to him, the adult stem cells are located in different organs of the human body, and are responsible for the renewal of damages cells/tissue at the time of need.

Dr. Marei said that the research team which leads at BRC had succeeded to: isolate the neural stem cells (NSC) from the olfactory bulb of human during brain surgery; grow NSC in lab by culturing them in specific media; genetically engineer the NSC to secrete nerve growth factor (which help in renewal of nervous and brain tissue); and develop animal (rat) model for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and spinal cord injury (SCI). He said following transplantation of NSC into the brain of the animal models, the NSC had succeeded to survive, proliferate, and specialized to renew different cell types forming the brain. He informed the participants that the outcome of stem cells research at QUBRC has provided strong evidence at the pre-clinical level (in animal model) for the possible use of NSC for cell-based therapy for AD, PD, and SCI. 

Dr. Marei said that a critical issue is technological advancement that has permitted remarkable increase in both human life expectancy and the percentage of the adult population surviving into old age. “However, the extension of our lives has far outpaced our ability to maintain our minds as we age, and our rapidly aging population means we now face an impending wave of age-related neurodegenerative pathology,” he added. “At the economic level, the cost of AD treatment and care in Qatar is not known exactly, but we can provide examples of the economic cost of AD by examining the economic impact of AD worldwide.”

According to World Alzheimer Report 2015, the number of dementia patients in each world region in 2015 is as follows: Europe 10.5 million, The Americas 9.4 million, Africa 4 million, and Asia 22.9 million. “With improvements in health care in Qatar and worldwide as well as the increased number of aged people, the economic impact of AD and other dementia is expected to rise significantly. This is a good justification to search for more effective AD therapies,” Dr. Marei said.

He added that the current research at QUBRC about neural stem cells is expected to provide new biological products of high commercial value in the fields of neurobiology and biomedical research, including the generation of primary Qatari specific iPSC lines which could be used in drug testing and AD disease modeling.