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King Saud University

The 2nd International Conference on Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine was launched Sunday, a four-day event organized and hosted by King Saud University’s Stem Cell Unit (SCU) and scheduled to run through Wednesday in the College of Medicine’s main hall.

When the SCU was founded in 2007, it became the first stem cell unit of its kind in the Middle East and has since developed an esteemed status, especially due to partnerships with the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), the King Fahd Medical City and various relationships with prestigious international universities such as Great Britain’s Sheffield University, Australia’s Monash University and the University of South Denmark.

Conference chairman, Dr. Abdullah Aldahmash, the SCU supervisor and a KSU assistant professor in embryology, opened the event saying that the University considered the Conference to be a milestone because it marks the second anniversary of the SCU, which was inaugurated by HRH Prince Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz in 2009.

2nd International Conference on Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine“From the beginning we wanted the Stem Cell Unit to be established on strong and solid ground . . . to play an instrumental role in changing the way we deal with many diseases and injuries and in how we treat them,” Dr. Aldahmash said. “We took it upon ourselves to work in rigorous scientific methodology and to let our achievements show our worth.

“We are glad to see the first fruits of our labor as the unit is now a local and international reference center on stem cell research and seven of its members have been invited to lecture in international scientific gatherings.”

Dr. Aldahmash revealed that the SCU now receives numerous applications to join the KSU stem cell center from researchers inside and outside the Kingdom. This is a natural response, he added, considering the international interest the SCU has attracted, because of the numerous research papers its staff has had published in highly-reputable international science journals.

At last count, Dr. Aldahmash said, the SCU has had 50 research papers published this year, increasing the overall number to 320 including six articles published in renowned journals such as Nature and Sciences.

The Stem Cell Unit is a major component of the anatomy department in KSU’s College of Medicine, and because of this relationship, Dr. Aldahmash expects the department to surpass last year’s superior rank on the university level. According to the SCU supervisor, his unit was fifth last year in research.

King Saud University“Academic publishing is not the only aspect of the unit's distinction,” he said. “Last year it filed for two patents. One has completed preliminary registration in KACST and we expect the other to be registered at the U.S. Patent Office before the end of the year”.

The SCU recently began unique clinical studies on the use of stem cells, in cooperation with other research centers within the College of Medicine. In addition to research, the unit’s educational process has produced one female PhD and three female Masters of Science recipients. The SCU also conducts frequent workshops and seminars for College of Medicine students and has trained both male and female students to conduct scientific research related to stem cells.

The Conference’s keynote speech was delivered by international researcher Richard Oreffo, Associate Dean and professor of musckuloskeletal science at the University of Southampton, as well as an adjunct professor at King Saud University. His topic was Bridging the gap: Skeletal stem-cell-based strategies for bone regeneration from bench to clinic.

Monday’s slate of speeches addressed human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells, improved animal models for the development of stem cell therapy for regenerative medicine, stem cell biomarkers and others.

The conference’s overall agenda includes presentations titled:

  • Stem Cell Biology, Signaling Mechanisms, and Integrating Pathways in Cell Biology;
  • Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering of Stem Cells;
  • Fundamental Issues in iPS/hES Cell Differentiation;
  • Advances in Clinical Applications and in Industrial Applications; and
  • The Latest Global Trends in Stem Cell Business, Policy, Law, Ethics and Advocacy.

A comprehensive poster session will display the most innovative science, leading edge technologies, industry updates and regulatory solutions in parallel to the lectures.

King Saud University

Present for the opening ceremonies was KSU Rector Abdullah Al-Othman and Dr. Mubarak Al-Faran, Dean of the KSU College of Medicine. After greeting the conference participants, Rector Al-Othman discussed KSU’s philosophy which is to emphasize quality throughout all its colleges, but focus closely on specific areas such as medical research because he doesn’t believe that a successful university can be distinguished in everything. He emphasized, however, that the University’s focus must change with the times.

“The circumstances of 2011 will be different from those of 2010, and there is no doubt that the next year will be radically different from the current year,” he said.

Rector Al-Othman lauded the ambition and drive of KSU’s medical students. “If we succeed in vitalizing the role of male and female students in scientific research", he said, "we will guarantee the future of scientific research in KSU. Until last Friday we had more than 1,650 scientific research papers published in academic periodicals, and these papers have been indexed in to the ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) database. By the year’s end, the number will have topped the 2,000 papers mark.

“This is not an objective by itself. This is a means for this nation to enjoy the privileges of advanced nations. The difference between the developed world and the third world is the production of knowledge. The developed world produces knowledge and the third world consumes it. These are widely separate tracks.”

The Rector stressed that KSU’s objectives must be clear and limited to enriching the national economy, serving humanity, improving the quality of life, serving the Kingdom’s national security and contributing to preserving lives. King Saud University’s College of Medicine is serving the Kingdom well, but so has – the Rector stressed – the University as a whole.

“We’re proud of King Saud University and its College of Medicine,” he concluded, “as we are of all our other colleges.”

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