Saudi scientists win major award for groundbreaking studies

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Altalhi’s research in donor-less organ transplants is designed to counter end-stage organ failure, a leading cause of death worldwide. (supplied)
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Furthering research in stem cell treatments for cancer patients is Al-Amoodi’s top priority. (supplied)
Updated 13 November 2019

Saudi scientists win major award for groundbreaking studies

  • Each of the researchers was awarded a grant in recognition of their outstanding achievements
  • According to the Saudi Cancer Registry, leukaemia is the fifth most common cancer among both men and women

DUBAI: A passion for science and years of hard work has put two Saudi women researchers in the spotlight following their groundbreaking studies on organ transplant alternatives and stem cell treatments. 

Wafa Audeh Altalhi and Asma Al-Amoodi were among the six female scientists honored at the sixth edition of the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Middle East Fellowship awards in Dubai.

Each of the researchers was awarded a grant in recognition of their outstanding achievements. Altalhi received €20,000 ($22,000) in the postdoctorate researchers category, while Al-Amoodi received €8,000 in the PhD students category.

The 21-year-old initiative empowers women in science and highlight the value of their achievements, while promoting gender equality. So far the program has supported more than 3,100 women and rewarded 107 laureates, granting doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships in 117 countries.

Altalhi’s research in donor-less organ transplants is designed to counter end-stage organ failure, a leading cause of death worldwide.  

“The transplant waiting list has been increasing in recent years, putting immense pressure on patients in terms of hospital expenses. My research uses a patient’s own stem cells to build replacing organs as an alternative to allogenic organ transplants,” she said.

Altalhi’s focus is on bioengineering patient-specific and donor-less organs by making specialized tissue and organs ready for transplant when needed.

“Awards like this provide a platform where candidates and their contributions are examined by experts. I believe that this is important to promote healthy competence in the scientific field and push innovation forward,” Altalhi said.

“My research uses a patient’s own stem cells to build replacing organs as an alternative to allogenic organ transplants.”

Wafa Audeh Altalhi

Before becoming a science laureate, Altalhi attended Umm Al-Qura University, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in laboratory medicine.

She went on to complete a master’s degree in cellular and molecular medicine, followed by a PhD in laboratory medicine and pathobiology at the University of Ottawa and Toronto in Canada.

“I am now doing my postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University and the Center for Organ Bioengineering at Massachusetts general hospital,” she said.

Meanwhile, furthering research in stem cell treatments for cancer patients is Al-Amoodi’s top priority.

She is convinced that more can be done to treat hematological diseases through stem cell research.

“This award is about overcoming all limitations and challenges I have faced. The award has turned my dream to do something for our society into reality.”

Asma Al-Amoodi

According to the Saudi Cancer Registry, leukaemia is the fifth most common cancer among both men and women.

With limited therapy options and a high number of patients in the Kingdom, Al-Amoodi is determined to improve the efficiency of bone marrow transplants through her research.

“This award is about overcoming all limitations and challenges I have faced. The award has turned my dream to do something for our society into reality,” she said.

Al-Amoodi has a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory technology and a master’s degree in biology. She plans to pursue her PhD studies in stem cell adhesion mechanism.


Saudi airports welcome back passengers after two-month hiatus

Updated 6 min 16 sec ago

Saudi airports welcome back passengers after two-month hiatus

  • Social distancing and face masks required in aircraft
  • Two local flights to be added daily to restore capacity 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is welcoming the return of aircraft and passengers amid strict precautionary measures to counter the spread of coronavirus.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) on Sunday opened 11 of the Kingdom’s 28 airports in a step toward restoring normality to everyday activities.
All flights and means of travel between Saudi cities ground to a halt on March 21.
“The progressive and gradual reopening aims at controlling the crowd inside airports because we want to achieve the highest health efficiency,” GACA spokesman Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alrwosa told Arab News.
He said that two local flights would be added daily until all routes returned to their normal capacity, during which time GACA would increase the capacity of aircrafts as decided by relevant committees. 
GACA has issued a travel guide for passengers, detailing what steps have been taken by authorities to ensure public health and safety and what obligations are on passengers. 
A decision about the return of international flights was up to authorities, he said. 


“I call on all travelers, both Saudis and residents, to read this guide and to look at the information and details in it because the travel decision depends on it,” the spokesman added.
Passengers found to violate any of the terms and conditions will not be allowed to complete the check-in process as per the new travel procedures.
The new terms include the use of e-tickets and passengers will not be allowed to enter airport premises without one. Purchasing tickets inside airport grounds is currently not an option because booking services for airline sales are currently closed.
Wearing a face mask is a prerequisite for airport access and any individual who fails to wear a face mask will be denied entry to the airport.
Passengers under the age of 15 will not be allowed to travel unaccompanied.
The Ministry of Health has set up temperature checkpoints inside the airport and passengers recording a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher will be denied entry in order to ensure their safety and the safety of other passengers.
Social distancing inside the airport has been adopted at entrances, exits, at seating areas and bridges leading to airplanes.
There will be social distancing on the aircraft, with an empty seat between each passenger, according to recommendations from the Ministry of Health, which stipulated that there must be social distancing.
“We want to make airports a safe environment to achieve a safe flight. There is another important issue, which is a well-known social tradition. There are many people at the airport who come to say goodbye to their loved ones or receive them. We will not allow the presence of people who do not have tickets in the airports, in order to ensure the safety of passengers,” said the GACA spokesman.
He said that passenger cooperation and compliance played a key role in the successful restart of flights.
“We rely on citizens and passengers, locals and residents alike, to help us implement preventive measures and to comply with the health rules recommended by the Ministry of Health.”