02 / 01 / 2024
Masi Almalki is a PhD student at the FRAME lab studying neuroinflammation, which is key to understanding neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, with human-relevant methods that will help replace current animal ‘models’.
We recently sat down with Masi to understand more about what inspired him to focus his studies on human-relevant science and how he hopes it will offer a better future for animals and humans.
What attracted you to working in this area of biology, or specifically this area of neuroscience?
My background during my undergraduate was in pharmacy, and I have a master’s degree in pharmacology, so I was always interested in understanding how drugs interact with the body. And my desire to delve deeper into how these interactions specifically affect the brain and nervous system.
Neuroinflammation, a key focus in this field, is crucial in various neurological conditions. Exploring this area allows me to investigate how the immune system interacts with the central nervous system and how this interaction can influence conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis. This knowledge is vital for developing more effective treatments and therapies for these disorders.
Therefore, my interest in this field stems from the opportunity to apply my knowledge of molecular pharmacology to understand and improve the treatment of brain-related conditions. This area of research holds the potential to make a significant impact on the lives of individuals affected by neurological disorders.
What excites you about the microglia model that you are developing?
The microglia model I’m developing, derived from peripheral blood cells, represents a significant step forward in neuroinflammation research. Unlike traditional animal models, which may not accurately replicate human responses, this human-centric approach allows us to study neuroinflammatory processes in a manner directly applicable to humans. This is pivotal for several reasons.
Firstly, it aligns with a growing imperative in scientific research – the reduction of animal use in laboratories. By focusing on human-derived models, we enhance the translatability of our findings and contribute to the broader effort to minimise reliance on animal testing. This approach respects ethical considerations and enhances the clinical relevance of our research outcomes.
Moreover, understanding neuroinflammation in a human-specific context holds immense promise for developing more targeted and effective treatments for neuroinflammatory disorders. By utilising a model directly related to human physiology, we can uncover insights that may have been overlooked in traditional animal studies.
Why do you think it’s important to develop a human-relevant model?
Developing a human-relevant model is paramount due to its direct applicability to our understanding of human physiological processes. Such models offer a more accurate representation of human biology, enabling research findings to be more reliably extrapolated to clinical applications. This approach aligns with ethical imperatives to minimise reliance on animal experimentation in scientific inquiry. Therefore, developing human-relevant models is a pivotal advancement in biomedical research, ensuring both scientific rigour and ethical considerations are upheld.
What is it like attending Neuro conferences as a researcher who only works with human cells rather than animal ‘models’?
As a researcher exclusively focused on human cell-based studies, attending neuro conferences provides a unique perspective. While many presentations may centre around animal models, my focus on human cells allows me to bring a distinct viewpoint to the discussions.
Attending these conferences offers valuable opportunities for knowledge exchange and networking. It allows me to engage with fellow researchers, gain insights into diverse methodologies, and appreciate the broader landscape of neuroscientific inquiry. It also provides a platform to advocate for human cell-based research’s significance in elucidating critical neurobiology aspects.
However, there may be a need to bridge the gap between animal and human studies in discussions and presentations. This involves emphasising the relevance and advantages of human cell-based models, such as their direct translatability to clinical applications and their alignment with ethical considerations.
Keep up to date with Masi on X (formerly known as Twitter): @MassiAhmed