BESE DIVISION RESEARCH AREA: 
CELLULAR & MOLECULAR BIOLOGY

Cellular and Molecular Biology is home to a highly collaborative group of faculty with internationally recognized research strengths in the areas of epigenetics, genomics and computational biology, molecular evolution and development, stem cells, and neuroscience. Through the study of a variety of model organisms ranging from viruses, bacteria, different cell types, coral reefs and plants to C. elegans, fish, and mice, this coherent research community creates an intellectual space that embraces thinking across different research areas and academic disciplines. It also utilizes a wide range of cutting-edge multidisciplinary experimental approaches. The group is deeply engaged in both fundamental research and its applications.

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​​RESEARCH TOPIC - EPIGENETICS 

The DNA‐centered dogma for genetic information is now evolving into a much more complex and flexible dimension provided by the discovery of the epigenome. This comprises chemical, structural and topological chromosome components that by complementing the DNA-based information determine genome functional organization, cell specific genetic programs and allows the genome to interact with the environment.

Epigenetics research uses integrated approaches including genomics, bioinformatics, biochemistry, ​and imaging to advance our understanding of genome function and the complexity of phenotype expression to explain development, cell identity, memory, plasticity, reprogramming and biodiversity and all implications for potential applications to improve human health and treatment of diseases.


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​​RESEARCH TOPIC - genomics & computational biology


While the 20th century is considered the age of Physics, the 21st century is rightfully considered the age of Biology. This is due to a large part to the overwhelming success of molecular biology and the parallel revolution in our ability to produce large amounts of sequencing data. The discipline of Genomics and Computational Biology is the branch of molecular biology concerned with the comparative elucidation of the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of genes and genomes. The current challenge and motivation is to apply a "nonreductionist” approach to understand the nature of (complex) organization on the level of organisms as well as ecosystems. The study of Genomics and Computation Biology is about the tool set to finding answers to these questions and to develop new ways to analyze and understand the vast amount of data.

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RESEARCH TOPIC - molecular evolution & development​


Theodosius Dobzhansky stated in 1973 that "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”. Consequently, our understanding of biological processes is affected by our ability to apply evolutionary principles. This is even more true of molecular evolution that is concerned with the study of the process of change in the sequence composition of DNA, RNA, and proteins across generations. Major topics in molecular evolution concern the rates and impacts of single nucleotide changes (SNPs), the rate of adaptation, and the origin of new genes. This is in particular important if we want to assess the response of organisms facing climate change. Studying organismal development has proven extremely successful to understanding molecular evolution. The field of evolutionary developmental biology (informally, evo-devo) is a field of biological research that compares the developmental processes of different organisms to infer the ancestral relationships between them and how developmental processes evolved.​

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​​RESEARCH TOPIC - stem cell


The Stem Cell Research Program in BESE focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms that maintain the proper form and function of the human body. These mechanisms may go awry due to mutation, chronic inflammation, traumatic injury, metabolic stress and aging. Stem cells are both a central player in the regeneration process and an indispensable tool for regenerative medicine research. 

​The Program contains research groups that use pluripotent stem cell models of diseases and genome engineering to study the pathogenic mechanism and to develop regenerative strategies.  There are also groups exploring the biology and therapeutic potential of somatic stem cells such as hematopoietic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells. Several faculty members have interest in in vitro generation of therapeutically valuable cell types, such as red blood cells, immune cells, and pancreatic beta cells. One of the goals of the stem cell research in BESE is to develop novel treatments for degenerative diseases and technologies for engineering transplantable tissues.

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RESEARCH TOPIC - neuroscience

Understanding the mammalian brain’s computational efficiency represents an ambitious challenge. Growing evidence suggests that one of the keys to unveil such mystery relies in its complex energy management system. Neuroscience at KAUST is centered on neuroenergetics,  the study of the mechanisms that couple synaptic activity to energy metabolism. An integrative modeling of brain energy metabolism has been established. To this end simulations of the metabolic coupling between glial cells and neurons are performed, which are sustained by the analyses of cellular morphologies needed for every level of computational modeling hierarchy. Complex 3D models from serial electron micrographs are generated using the most advanced image segmentation techniques, as well as Virtual Reality tools for qualitative and quantitative analysis of detailed brain morphologies. The development of sensor technologies to monitor synaptic activity and energy substrate levels are also being developed. 

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