Research Materials

Research

Research conducted at the biology department reflects the diverse background of the professors teaching in the department. Currently, we have research conducted in the following fields: bioinformatics and human genetic variation and diseases, cellular and molecular processes  cancer and stem cell research, immunology and Hepatitis, marine ecology and phylogenetic relationships, microbiology and deep sea proteins, neuroscience and wound healing, transgenic plants and crop enhancement. 

Detailed information about ongoing projects can be found below.

Algal Biodiversity and Applications

Microalgae are among the producers in the ecosystem, and when present, they support the growth of many consumers such as zooplankton and fish. It has been reported that greater algae diversity in the ecosystem supports higher consumer diversity and, hence, a healthier ecosystem. Since emerged 3.5 billion years ago, the microalgae survived and evolved under various environments. Therefore, microalgal diversity provides excellent resources for a wide range of applications. Microalgae and their products are used in human food and animal feed. Algae are also grown at a large scale for pigment and antioxidant production. A great deal of research is ongoing worldwide to identify and develop algae strains for biofuel production, known as the third-generation biofuel technology.

Egypt has different aquatic habitats that support the living of diverse organisms, including algae. The research focuses on studying algae diversity and the isolation of economically significant algae strains from different habitats.    

For more information contact Walid Fouad.

Biocompatibility of Orthopedic Implants Materials

We have demonstrated that nylon-coating enhances the performance of Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) bearing surfaces in orthopedic implants such as hip, shoulder, and knee joint replacements. We are interested in examining the UHMWPE coated with nylon tumorigenic effects.

For more information contact Asma Amleh.

Biomedical Research

The biomedical research team in the department of biology is interested in using natural and herbal extracts in different diseases such as diabetes, skin disorders, and nervous system disorders. Their work involves identifying active ingredients with therapeutic potential from plants (Turmeric, Fenugreek) and marine animals ( Jellyfish) and testing these extracts in different disease models. These extracts have been successfully used in diabetes, wound healing, and psoriasis models. The team also utilizes nanotechnology tools to design nanomaterials to deliver these active ingredients to different body systems to enhance drug delivery and reduce the drugs' side effects.

For more information contact Ahmed Abdellatif.

Chemotherapy Treatment

Amleh’s activities are focused on the following three broad topics. This is the fifth project: Complementary approach for more effective chemotherapy treatment.

We have demonstrated that mechanical loading, in the form of shear stress at 300 rpm, when combined with a low dosage of Pt-based anticancer drugs, leads to a much higher death among cancerous cells in culture than that induced by the anticancer drug alone. These results identified a previously unrecognized unconventional potential cancer treatment modality- mechanical loading- that appears to increase the efficacy of cisplatin (Pt-based anticancer drugs) on HepG2 cells.

We are currently investigating the role of mechanical loading in regulating the anticancer drug distribution using various cancer cell lines. We are also looking into adopting a biological system to gauge the effectiveness of physical activity on lowering anticancer drug resistance.

For more information contact Asma Amleh.

DNA Damage Responses Research

Kakarougkas’ research focuses on how our bodies respond to carcinogens in our environment. In particular, he is interested in how damage to our DNA can lead to cancer. He has received specialist training in all aspects of cell and molecular biology, toxicology, and DNA repair analysis. His research in the DNA damage responses field is published in high-impact peer-reviewed journals. Selected publications include:

For more information contact Andreas Kakarougkas.

Educational Research

Kakarougkas carries out pedagogical research on the teaching approaches he employs in his classes. His work looking at the effectiveness of a Flipped Classroom Approach in a Molecular Biology course, was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of College Science Teaching.

For more information contact Andreas Kakarougkas.

Genetic Isolation and Bottlenecks of Invasive Marine Organisms

Since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, a plethora of Red Sea fishes have entered the Mediterranean Sea (Lessepsian migration) and a few have moved in the opposite direction (Anti-Lessepsian migration). These migrations provide excellent scenarios for studying genetic bottlenecks and genetic isolation in invasive populations. Indo-Pacific fish species are expected to have a reduced haplotype diversity in the newly invaded habitats in the Mediterranean Sea. For the genetic analyses, we focus on mitochondrial DNA (COI) as well as on nuclear DNA markers. Collaborations with research groups in Cyprus, Greece, Japan and Lebanon support the research projects. As an initial result, the comber (Serranus cabrilla), a fish long considered to be an Anti-Lessepsian migrant in the Northern Red Sea, was found to represent a genetically fully isolated population possibly representing an undiscovered sub-species of its Mediterranean relative. Organisms of other Phyla (e.g. Echinoderms, Ascidians, Corals) are also considered for this ongoing research project.

For more information contact Arthur R. Bos.

Molecular Improvement of Forage and Bioenergy Crops

Plant biotechnology research of the Department of Biology is two for forage crops sorghum and millet. Sorghum and millet are C4 plants belonging to the subfamily Panicoideae and among the most efficient crops in solar energy conversion with high water-use efficiency. Therefore, they are suitable crops in semi-arid, low-input dryland regions worldwide. Several sorghums and millet varieties are cultivated worldwide for grain harvest and forage cut (for pasture, hay, and silage). Sorghum and millet are also getting popular for human consumption in many developed countries as their grains are gluten-free. Sweet sorghums, another type of sorghum being used for syrups and forage. There has been an increasing interest in sweet sorghum as biofuel feedstock since the juices extracted from stalks are high in sugars that are readily fermentable to biofuel.

Additionally, forage crops are also targeted for improvements to increase their biomass production and agronomical traits. In Egypt, green forage crops are mainly produced under irrigation. Developing high-yielding and high-quality varieties growing under limited irrigation has become more important to overcome the water limitations in Egypt and other semi-arid regions. Therefore, emphasis must be placed on crops such as sorghum and millet to accomplish high yield with reduced inputs. Recombinant DNA technology has provided new horizons in the field of crop improvement. Therefore, ongoing research emphasizes developing efficient in-vitro plant regeneration and transformation system for local sweet sorghum and pearl millet varieties.

For more information contact Walid Fouad.

Molecular Mechanism of Hepatocellular Carcinoma Pathogenesis

Amleh’s activities are focused on the following three broad topics. This is the second project: Molecular mechanism of hepatocellular carcinoma pathogenesis. 

Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) is a looming epidemic with a poor prognosis. Thus, there is an increasing demand to study the molecular mechanisms of HCC pathogenesis to introduce more prognostic markers. We are currently developing a panel of blood-based biomarkers consisting of circulating miRNAs to screen for early OVCA detection.

For more information contact Asma Amleh.

Mesenchymal Stem Cells Multipotency

With their multipotent differentiation capacity and self-renewal ability, mesenchymal stromal cells maintain the regeneration activities in the organ they are inhabiting. We are currently employing a comparative bioinformatic analysis to identify markers that distinguish MSC from ESC.

For more information contact Asma Amleh.

Neuroscience Research

The neuroscience research team in the biology department is interested in studying the link between the environment and neurodegenerative disorders. Ongoing research is looking at the connection between chronic stress, heavy metal poisoning, and chronic infection, and the development of dementia. Environmental factors contribute significantly to the damage observed in the nervous system of patients with neurodegenerative disorders. Identifying these risk factors early could help in modifying the disease progression and improve the quality of life for these patients.

For more information contact Ahmed Abdellatif.

Phylogenetic Relationships of Marine and Terrestrial Organisms

The Red Sea is the most north-western location of the Indo-Pacific biogeographic distribution of many coral reef organisms and hosts one of the highest number of endemic species in the world. At the Department of Biology, genetic studies are conducted to understand the relationships between Red Sea and Indo-Pacific species and populations. In most cases, mitochondrial DNA (COI) is targeted, because mDNA is relatively stable within species. Collaborations with research groups in Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia support the sample collection from various locations within the large Indo-Pacific region.

Apart from studies on marine organisms, we have several ongoing projects studying the phylogenetic relationship of terrestrial organisms (the Egyptian Weasel Mustela nivalis, Fox species Vulpes spp. and the spider Argiope trifasciata)

For more information contact Arthur R. Bos.

Red Sea Marine Anti-Cancer

Amleh’s activities are focused on the following three broad topics. This is the third project: Red Sea marine anti-cancer peptide activity

Peptide-therapeutics is expected to help reduce some of the current therapeutic problems, including side effects associated with anticancer treatment modality and high dosage treatment requirements. We are currently examining the anticipated anticancer activity of microbial peptides from marine sources, which are much more diversified than those originating from plants or other sources.

Amleh’s activities are focused on the following three broad topics. This is the fourth project: Assessing the anti-tumor effect of various plant extracts. Despite the considerable advancement in cancer treatment, there is a demand to continuously develop new, more effective, and safe drugs against cancer. Herbal plants present a rich source for a wide variety of compounds with potential anticancer activity. We are currently examining the molecular mechanism responsible for Salvia triloba anticancer activity.

For more information contact Asma Amleh.

The Human Microbiome

The human microbiome is the collection of bacterial, viral, and other microorganisms associated with the human body, inhabiting, for example, the gut, oral cavity, or the skin. Microbiome studies have revealed the complex interaction between the microbiome and human health and disease conditions, including cancer, metabolic disorders, gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases, and mental health. This research focuses on deciphering the human microbiome’s functional and pathological roles and the interplay with human genetics. To achieve this goal, we employ state-of-the-art high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies, bioinformatics, and genomic analytics.

For more information contact Ahmed Moustafa.

The Molecular Changes that Contribute to the Initiation, Progression, and Retardation of Cancer

Amleh’s activities are focused on the following three broad topics. This is the first project: MicroRNA biomarker for early detection of ovarian cancer.

New diagnostic approaches for early detection of ovarian cancer (OVCA), the most lethal gynecological malignancies, are urgently needed. The currently used biomarkers lack selectivity and specificity for early detection. We are investigating the role of the β-subunit of the negative elongation factor (NELF) complex, which stalls polymerase II and prevents elongation of the transcripts of the genes it controls the expression of molecules involved in tumorigenesis.

For more information contact Asma Amleh.

Translational Cancer Research

Kakarougkas is currently working on the biological characterization of novel drug delivery systems for cancer drugs. His latest publication, Encapsulation of Nedaplatin in Novel PEGylated Liposomes Increases Its Cytotoxicity and Genotoxicity against A549 and U2OS Human Cancer Cells in the tier one journal Pharmaceutics, received significant media attention on Misr newsEl Balad news, and Nature Middle East. In addition, a report on DMC channel program, Masr Tastatei.

For more information contact Andreas Kakarougkas.