Saudi chemist invents new medical technique

Updated 02 February 2016
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Saudi chemist invents new medical technique

JEDDAH: A Saudi woman has used her expertise in chemistry to develop a new device that can carry drugs to points of inflammation in the body.

Ghada Mutlaq Al-Mutairi, 39, who currently lives in the United States and holds a doctorate in chemical engineering, works at the University of California. She received a $3 million global innovation award from HIN, the largest organization supporting scientific research in the United States.
Her device, which was recognized as one of the four most important inventions by the United States Congress in 2012, provides a way to penetrate the body, detect inflammation, and provide treatment using nano-capsules containing medicine, according to reports.
Al-Mutairi said the technology has been successful in treating eye and rheumatoid patients in the United States, with possible applications in other fields including agriculture, engineering and manufacturing. This work is now taking place, she said.
She said she has been motivated by a determination to do something good for humanity. “Ten years ago I started asking heart surgeons what their biggest problem was. Most said it was blockages of arteries that lead to strokes, specifically accumulation of fat in artery walls with age. But the problem was cardiologists could not determine if there was inflammation especially in the early stages.”
“I began to ask about how to find and eliminate inflammation. As I began researching this I came up with the idea of developing a nano-capsule with light which can be dispersed throughout the body, to find and treat inflammation with drugs.”
She said the development took 10 years, and by 2011 they were able to produce a substance that interacts with the inflammation. “Then in 2013 we were able to develop the nano-capsule technology that does not dissolve in water and only opens on contact with inflammation in the human body.”
Al-Mutairi’s invention has attracted the interest of several firms, including a Japanese agricultural company and Pfizer, who purchased a license for its use from the university. There has also been interest from other pharmaceutical, chemical, engineering, and solar companies around the world.
Al-Mutairi earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2000 from Occidental University in Los Angeles, and her master’s in biochemistry from the University of California. After obtaining her doctorate degree in chemical engineering in 2005, she went on to produce numerous studies and a book that has been translated into German and Japanese. She then worked as a professor in California.
Al-Mutairi is currently working with her brother Khaled Al-Mutairi, a well-known plastic surgeon in the United States, to support research in plastic surgery, specifically developing a new chemical to rid the body of excess fat.
Al-Mutairi has three brothers and one sister, all of whom are successful scientists and doctors in the United States and Saudi Arabia. “My mother studied chemistry, and all I can say is we are who we are because of her, a smart woman who dedicated her life to her five children.”
As for success, Al-Mutairi said this requires a combination of optimism and determination, as well as hard work, clarity of vision, a firm purpose, and a competitive environment.
She said she follows up on developments in Saudi Arabia with her mother. “I love my country and am proud of it, whether I am in the United States or elsewhere in the world.”
Al-Mutairi’s family members describe her as someone who has a “love for science, is dedicated to her work, and is able to focus and see things others do not.”


Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 15 min 1 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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