(King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences) Paving the way for Precision Medicine in Saudi Arabia – The Saudi iPS Cell Bank

Dr. Khaled Alsayegh, Director of Research Operations at King Abdullah International Medical Research Center, Jeddah. He received his PhD in Human Molecular Genetics from the Medical College of Virginia and he did a postdoctoral training at the Institute of Advanced Biomedical Engineering & Sciences at Tokyo Women’s Medical University.

Before the year 2007, true stem cells, i.e. cells that can become any type of cell found in our bodies, could only be obtained from five days-old human embryos. The derivation of these cells involved the destruction of embryos which was ethically problematic. Until the Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, discovered that stemness can be induced in cells isolated from adults by a process called, cellular reprogramming. Blood or skin cells could be reprogrammed to an embryonic-like state, making them indistinguishable from those isolated from the human embryo, yet evading the ethical concerns. These cells were named induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) Cells.

 “Imagine a bank of iPS cells made from Saudi donors, where Saudi patients could find a match and receive healthy, cell therapy products perfectly tailored to their bodies to treat diseases and medical conditions” This is the long-term vision that Dr. Alsayegh is working towards and received generous funding from KAIMRC and KAUST Smart Health Initiative.

Furthermore, the Saudi iPS cell bank would have iPS cell lines generated from Saudi patients suffering from rare and common diseases. These iPS cells could then be converted to the cell type affected by the disorder to help create disease models in a dish, which could serve as a platform for drug screening and for understanding disease mechanisms.

Dr. Alsayegh’s team recently published their first line of IPS cell line KAIMRCi001-A by reprogramming erythroid progenitors from peripheral blood of a healthy Saudi donor. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scr.2021.102548)