Research Projects

Research Projects

Nano-Oximes as Treatment for Cholinesterase Inhibitor Exposure

PI: Dr. Georg Petroianu

Funding: Research supported by the Khalifa University of Science and Technology

Organophosphorus esters (organophosphates and organophosphonates) which are used as pesticides and parasiticides are amongst the most frequent causes of accidental and suicidal intoxications.
Their acute toxicity is due to the inhibition of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE), which inactivates the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh) at cholinergic synapses. Esterase inhibition results from phosphylation (i.e. either phosphorylation or phosphonylation) of the serine hydroxyl group in the active center of the enzyme and translates into an “endogenous acetylcholine poisoning”.

The therapy of poisoning with organophosphorus compounds, which is summarized by the acronym A FLOP = Atropine, FLuids, Oxygen, Pralidoxime (aldoxime cholinesterase reactivator), is generally disappointing. Pyridinium oximes reactivate phosphylated AChE by interacting with the anionic site of the enzyme.  An optimal orientation of the reactivator at the catalytic site of the enzyme is facilitated by the pyridinium moiety, which thus increases efficacy. It is generally accepted that nerve gas exposure can be treated with oximes; however, the therapeutic value of oximes in human organophosphate pesticide poisoning is controversial. One possible reason for the disappointing efficacy may be the very limited ability of oximes (< 5%) to penetrate the blood-brain-barrier.


The design and characterization of transplantable bioartificial kidney scaffolds

PI: Dr. Peter R. Corridon

The key goal of the proposed research is to improve the way we evaluate whole kidney scaffold integrity at the microvascular level. We will directly address this proposed goal by testing the following specific aims:

1)    Design and characterize an approach to assess and enhance decellularized kidney scaffold integrity at the cellular level. Using two-photon microscopy, we hypothesize that our experiments will access traces of cellular debris left after the decellularization process and define ways to remove such debris. Moreover, we will inspect microvascular patency and scaffold integrity in various in vitro and in vivo conditions.

2)    Model pertinent characteristics that can be used to optimize recellularization. We hypothesize that our theoretical/computational models will be able to identify fluid forces that can support successful and widespread cellular delivery and integration into scaffolds that do not contain cells. We will determine various biomechanical parameters of scaffolds and create 3D reconstructions of microvascular geometry to help us characterize scaffold integrity throughout the decellularization, recellularization and transplantation processes.

3)    Develop a novel cellular re-seeding technique that can rapidly and effectively repopulate kidney scaffolds. Our studies will specifically examine how normal and genetically modified renal cells can be effectively delivered throughout scaffolds using our patented hydrodynamic delivery technique. We will also determine if this proposed delivery methods can support better support cellular integration into whole scaffolds that are subjected to various in vivo conditions.


Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Noncommunicable Diseases – Nonpharmacological Approaches - Thematic Project

 PI: Dr. Ovidiu Constantin Baltatu

Funding: Research supported by the Khalifa University of Science and Technology under Award No. FSU- 2020-33.

Early detection of cardiovascular diseases and risk factors through biomarker research and prevention through nonpharmacological strategies represent a subject of strategic health and medical importance. This project proposal focuses on 2 major aspects of cardiovascular risk, which have been a topic of our research group, with the objectives to investigate:

  • Modifiable cardiovascular risk factors – focusing on physical activity
  • Cardiovascular biomarkers for early diagnosis and monitoring of cardiovascular diseases.


Khalifa Heart Study

PI: Dr. Ovidiu Constantin Baltatu

Funding: Research was supported by the Khalifa University of Science and Technology under Award No. FSU- 2020-33.

Lifestyle factors, such as diet, physical activity and sleep, are associated with the development of cardiovascular diseases. The objective of The Khalifa Healthy Heart Study is to characterize the cardiovascular risk distribution and understand how this is associated with lifestyle factors in academic environment. This is an exploratory cross-sectional observational community study of adults.

The specific objectives of the Khalifa Healthy Heart Study are as follows:

  • to identify the global cardiovascular risk distribution among students and staff of Khalifa University;
  • to study the association between cardiovascular risk with sociodemographic, lifestyle and anthropometric characteristics.


Multi-Center Prospective Cohort Study: Impact of Burnout on Cardiovascular and Immune Biomarkers among Frontline Healthcare Professionals During Covid-19 Pandemic

PI: Dr. Ovidiu Constantin Baltatu

Funding: Research supported by the Khalifa University of Science and Technology under Award No. CPRA 2020-034.

Healthcare professionals are risking their lives, threatened not only by exposure to the virus but also by pervasive and deleterious effects on their mental health. We are now facing a surge of physical and emotional harm that amounts to a parallel pandemic. Burnout has been associated with higher rates of anxiety disorders, increased cardiovascular risk and immune dysfunction — trends that will be aggravated by the pandemic. Such injuries may be most acute and long lasting in the young physicians, nurses, and other health professionals serving on the front lines during their formative years of training.

The main objective of this project is to investigate the evolution of psychosocial, cardiovascular and immune markers in healthcare with different levels of exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The role of melatonin in circadian-related diseases: A focus on Rho-associated protein kinase(ROCK) 1 and ROCK 2

PI: Dr. Eman Alefishat

Melatonin is an important endogenous neurohormone produced by the pineal gland that, it possess both circuannual and circadian rhythms. Circadian disruptions have been reported to be associated with increased susceptibility to several metabolic disease with inflammatory component such as type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer and their complications. One of the consequences of advancing age is the decline in circulating levels of melatonin and circadian disruption. A number of studies suggested that in patients with low melatonin levels, melatonin replacement can be beneficial to treat patients with mild cognitive impairment. It has been reported that melatonin has a neuroprotective effect via reducing the levels of amyloid β (Aβ), the neurotoxic compound which plays a central role in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  The exact mechanism through which melatonin affect Aβ  levels is not confirmed. Recently, using in vivo and in vitro models, ROCK 1 have been found to be elevated in AD, ROCK 1 depletion reduced Aβ levels in the brain. No studies have investigated the effect of melatonin on ROCK.

  • Aim and methodology: The aim of this project is to use cell culture and animal models to investigate whether the previously reported effect of melatonin on the Aβ levels is mediated through the ROCK.
  • The results of this project will help identify the mechanism via which melatonin exert its effects, this can be a step towards the use of this relatively safe molecule as part of the management and prevention plan of several life threatening diseases such as AD, diabetic nephropathy and cancer. This project will collaborate with the Center for Biotechnology and colleagues at the college of medicine to bring all efforts and experiences together to eventually achieve world-class healthcare in UAE.


Signaling Pathway of Cardiac Striatin During Hypertension

PI: Dr. Ali Khraibi

Funding: Research supported by the Khalifa University of Science and Technology

Due to its importance in cardiac contraction, we propose to evaluate the expression and role of striatin, a cardiac protein, in the development of maladaptive remodeling using an established animal model of essential hypertension, the Okamoto Spontaneously Hypertensive Rat (SHR).

The SHR is a well-established animal model for human essential hypertension. Striatin (STRN) is a cardiac protein that possesses binding domains to calmodulin (CaM) and caveolin (Cav), both of which are regulators of myocardial function. The calcium sensitive interaction between cardiac STRN, CaM, and Cav-3 has been previously reported; however, the dynamics of this interaction and its impact on cardiac remodeling was not yet addressed. During hypertension, cardiac maladaptive remodeling can occur. Therefore, in our proposed studies, we will first investigate (1) the changes in the expression of striatin in SHR hearts at different time points of the onset/progression of hypertension, as well as (2) the interaction of striatin, CaM, and Cav-3 in the SHR heart. Subsequently, (3) the effect of striatin on cardiac hypertrophy and on intracellular calcium will be further evaluated.

Data from these proposals will provide new insights on the changes in the contractile apparatus in cardiomyocytes in response to hypertension, which is accompanied by cardiac dilation. It will serve as a translational platform for therapeutic strategies in an effort to attenuate the burden of maladaptive remodeling of the heart in humans, particularly within the United Arab Emirates population.


Precision Medicine in Diagnosis and Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in the United Arab Emirates

PI: Dr. Sabina Semiz

Funding: Research supported by the Khalifa University of Science and Technology, Award # FSU-2020-29/2020

Precision medicine has the capacity to optimize the disease treatment and to identify novel therapeutic targets leading to development of novel medicines. This project is focused on use of precision medicine in Type 2 diabetes (T2D), including precise T2D diagnosis and precise T2D treatment in the UAE population. In line with these objectives, this study will analyze for the first time the genomic, metabolic, life style and other factors associated with the T2D risk, its traits and response to therapy in the Emirates. Given the high incidence of T2D, consanguineous marriages, lifestyle influence, and total healthcare costs allocated to diabetes management in the Middle East population that are being among of the highest in the world, it is pertinent to understand better genetic and other factors associated with T2D risk, traits, and response to treatment. Furthermore, an optimal treatment also appears to be crucial in diabetic patients diagnosed with COVID-19, who are exposed to the higher risk of morbidity and mortality as compared to nondiabetic patients. It is expected that results of this project will enhance the translation of precision medicine in clinical practice, where an optimal treatment is targeted to an individual’s genome


Publications 2019
Publications 2020



Petroianu GA (2020): Singultus, paper-bag ventilation, and hypercapnia. J Hist Neurosciences 8: 1-13


Keough N et al (2020): Kambin's triangle and the position of the dorsal nerve root in the lumbar neural foramen.

Clinical Anatomy



Lorke DE, Petroianu GA et al (2020): Combined Pre- and Posttreatment of Paraoxon Exposure. Molecules 25: 1521


Saad M. Khan, Nora El Karte, Sarah El Hajj Chehadeh, Ahmed Hassoun, Bachar Afandi, Guan K. Tay, Habiba Alsafa(2020): Association Between Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus & TCF7L2 Gene Variants in the Emirati Population: Genetics of Diabetes in the United Arab Emirates.

Am J Human Biology


Ding Q, Tan ALM, Parra EJ, Cruz M, Sim X, Teo YY, Long J, Al-Safar H et al (2020): Genome-wide meta-analysis associates GPSM1 with type 2 diabetes, a plausible gene involved in skeletal muscle function.

J Hum Genetics 65: 411-420


Alsafar H et al (2020): Genetics of type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease and their associations with twelve cardiometabolic traits in the United Arab Emirates population. Gene 738


Bianca Domingues Massolini, Stephanie San Gregorio Contieri, Giulia Severini Lazarini, Paula Antoun Bellacosa, Mirela Dobre, Georg Petroianu, Andrei Brateanu, Luciana Aparecida Campos, and Ovidiu Constantin Baltatu(2020): Therapeutic Renin Inhibition in Diabetic Nephropathy—A Review of the Physiological Evidence. Frontiers Physiology 11: 190


Mervat M Alsous, Ahmed F Hawwa, Cameron Imrie, Andras Szabo, Eman Alefishat , Rana Abu Farha, Mohammad Rwalah , Rob Horne, James C McElnay(2020):
Adherence to Azathioprine/6-Mercaptopurine in Children and Adolescents with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: A Multimethod Study.
Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology


Shaya J et al(2020):
Recent Advances in Metal-Catalyzed Alkyl–Boron (C(sp3)–C(sp2)) Suzuki-Miyaura Cross-Couplings.
Catalysts 10: 296


Alsafar H al (2020):
Clinical correlations and genetic associations of metabolic syndrome in the United Arab Emirates.
Gene 738;


Luciana Aparecida Campos, Clarissa Bueno, Isabella P. Barcelos, Bruno Halpern, Leandro C. Brito, Fernanda G. Amaral, Ovidiu Constantin Baltatu, José Cipolla-Neto (2020):
Melatonin Therapy Improves Cardiac Autonomic Modulation in Pinealectomized Patients.
Frontiers in Endocrinology


Alsafar H et al (2020): Implication of Genetic Variants in Overweight and Obesity Susceptibility Among the Young Arab Population of the United Arab Emirates.
Gene 738;


Lane KL, Abusamaan MS, Voss BF, Thurber EG, Al-Hajri N, Shraddha Gopakumar, Jimmy T.Le, Sharoon Gila, Jaime Blanck, Laura Prichett, Caitlin W. Hicks, Ronald L.Sherman, Christopher J.Abularrage, Nestoras N.Mathioudakis (2020):
Glycemic control and diabetic foot ulcer outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies.
Journal of Diabetes and its Complications.!


Elnour AA, Al-Hajri N, El Khidir IY, Abdulla AlAmoodi, Sahar Asim Ahmed, Adel Sadeq (2020): Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists Cardio-protective Effects: An Umbrella Review.
Current Diabetes Reviews.


Alefishat E et al (2020):
Factors Affecting Health-related Quality of Life Among Hypertensive Patients Using the EQ-5D Tool.
International Journal of Clinical Practice


Tay GK, Henschel A, Daw Elbait G, Al Safar HS (2020): Genetic Diversity and Low Stratification of the Population of the United Arab Emirates.
Front Genet; 11: 608.
doi: 10.3389/fgene.2020.00608. eCollection 2020



Acuna J et al. (2020): he association between taking a course or class in self-managing diabetes with diabetic ocular complications including diabetic retinopathy: A cross-sectional study.
Prim Care Diabetes: S1751-9918(20)30219-9.
doi: 10.1016/j.pcd.2020.06.007.


TH Al-Tel, H Tarazi , LO Aloum , DE Lorke, GA Petroianu (2020): Possible metabolic conversion of pinene to ionone.
Die Pharmazie 75: 360-363


Al-Hammadi A, Ruszczak Z, Magariños G et al. (2020): Intermittent Use of Biologic Agents for the Treatment of Psoriasis in Adults.
Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology & Venereology


E Manek & GA Petroianu (2020): Brain delivery of antidotes by polymeric nanoparticles Journal of Applied Toxicology


Gihan Daw Elbait, Andreas Henschel, Guan K. Tay & Habiba S. Al Safar (2020):
Whole Genome Sequencing of Four Representatives From the Admixed Population of the United Arab Emirates.
Front. Genetics


Elnour AA, Don J, Yousif I, Gnana K, Abdi S, Noora Al Hajri + 7 (2020):
The early mortality rate of people infected with coronavirus (COVID-2019) in Wuhan, China: Review of three retrospective studies.
Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences 12 : 223-233;year=2020;volume=12;issue=3;spage=223;epage=233;aulast=Elnour


Petroianu GA & Lorke DE (2020)
The Role of Serotonin in Singultus: A Review Frontiers in Neurosciences


Tsai H, Shaya J, Tesana S, Golovko VB, Wang SY, Liao YY, Lu CS, Chen CC (2020):
Visible-Light Driven Photocatalytic Degradation of Pirimicarb by Pt-Doped AgInS2 Nanoparticles. Catalysts 10: 857


El Nebrisi E, Prytkova T, Lorke DE +5 (2020):
Capsaicin Is a Negative Allosteric Modulator of the 5-HT3 Receptor. Frontiers Pharmacology


Shaya J, Vukusic S, Hassan A, , Muhammad AS, Tay G, Al Safar H, Corridon PR (2020):
Adapting Premedical Post-Baccalaureate Approaches to Support US-style Medical Education in the United Arab Emirates.
Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development 7: on-line


Adem A et al (2020):
Controlled Release of Pyrimidine Compound Using Polymeric Coated ZIF-8 Metal-Organic Framework as Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonist Carrier.
Molecules 25(18):E4313.


van Tonder DJ, Natalie Keough + 2 (2020):
The position of the common facial vein in neonates: an alternate route for central venous catheter placement
Clinical Anatomy


Islam AUS, Hellman B, Nyberg F, Amir N, Jayaraj RL, Petroianu G, Adem A (2020):
Myrcene Attenuates Renal Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in the Adrenalectomized Rat Model.
Molecules 2020, 25(19), 4492


Semiz S & Serdarevic F (2020):
Prevention and Management of Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome in the Time of COVID-19:
Should We Add a Cup of Coffee?
Frontiers in Nutrition


Al-Omari B, Hill B (2020):
Nursing people with osteoarthritis.
Br J Nursing 29:1060-1063


Baltatu O et al (2020):
Cardiovascular and Quality of Life Outcomes of a 3-Month Physical Exercise Program in Two Brazilian Communities .
Frontiers in Medicine


Acuna JM et al (2020):
The Association Between Social Support and Psychological Distress in Latina Mothers Living in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
Cureus 12(10):e10848. doi: 10.7759/cureus.10848.


Petroianu et al (2020):
Use of Biodegradable, Chitosan-Based Nanoparticles in the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Molecules 25, 4866; doi:10.3390/molecules25204866



Richard L Jayaraj , Rami Beiram, Sheikh Azimullah , Nagoor Meeran Mf , Shreesh K Ojha , Abdu Adem, Fakhreya Yousuf Jalal (2020):
Valeric Acid Protects Dopaminergic Neurons by Suppressing Oxidative Stress, Neuroinflammation and Modulating Autophagy Pathways
Int J Mol Sci ; 21(20):E7670. doi: 10.3390/ijms21207670\


Shaden Abdelhadi, Zbigniew Ruszczak, Robert A Schwartz: (2020):
COVID-19: Topical Agents and Therapeutic Prevention of Nasal Viral Acquisition Dermatologic Therapy


Shadi WH, Ibrahim Y, Daou M, Kannout H, Jan N, Lopes A, Alsafar Habiba, Yoused AF (2020):
Detection and quantification of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater and treated effluents: Surveillance of COVID-19 epidemic in the United Arab Emirates Science of the Total Environment


Sara Sorrell & Halah Ibrahim (2020):
First year medical students' perceptions of the impact of wearing scrubs on professional identity: a narrative analysis in the United Arab Emirates
British Medical Journal Open
10(11):e039357. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-039357.


Alsafar Habiba et al (2020): Association between genetic variants at chromosome 9p21 and risk of coronary artery disease in Emirati Type 2 Diabetes patients Gene Reports 21: 100892


Sharif-Askari NS, Sharif-Askari FS, Mdkhana B, Al Heialy S, Alsafar HS, Hamoudi R, Hamid Q, Halwani R (2020):
Enhanced expression of immune checkpoint receptors during SARS-CoV-2 viral infection.
Mol Ther Methods Clin Dev. doi: 10.1016/j.omtm.2020.11.002.


Mahmoud A Ali , Hassan Abu Damir , Osman M Ali , Naheed Amir , Saeed Tariq , Michael P Greenwood , Panjiao Lin , Benjamin Gillard , David Murphy , Abdu Adem (2020):
The effect of long-term dehydration and subsequent rehydration on markers of inflammation, oxidative stress and apoptosis in the camel kidney
BMC Vet Res. 16:458 doi: 10.1186/s12917-020-02628-5.


Abu-Izneida T, Al Hajri N +5 (2020):
Micro-RNAs in the regulation of immune response against SARS COV-2 and other viral infections.
Journal of Advanced Research.
doi: 10.1016/j.jare.2020.11.013.


Kanhua Yin, Noora Alhajri, Muhammad Rizwan, Satinderjit Locham, Hanaa Dakour-Aridi, Mahmoud B Malas (2020):
Black Patients Have Higher Burden of Comorbidities but Lower Risk of 30-Day and One-Year Mortality After Thoracic Endovascular Aortic Repair
J Vascular Surgery S0741-5214(20)32499-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2020.10.087.


Lujain Aloum , Eman Alefishat , Abdu Adem & Georg Petroianu (2020):
Ionone Is More than a Violet’s Fragrance: A Review
Molecules 25, 5822


Al-Omari B, McMeekin P (2020):
Patients' Preferences Regarding Osteoarthritis Medications: An Adaptive Choice-Based Conjoint Analysis Study
Patient Prefer Adherence 22:2501-2515.
doi: 10.2147/PPA.S283922

Publications 2021