SAUDI ARABIA — King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSH&RC), a renowned healthcare institution, is spearheading four groundbreaking research experiments in cell sciences in collaboration with the Saudi Space Commission (SSC) aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

These experiments will take place during the momentous journey of Saudi astronauts, Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al-Qarni, to the ISS, marking a historic milestone for the Kingdom and heralding a new era for Saudi Arabia in the realm of space exploration.

The experiments include evaluating the immune cell response to inflammation in a microgravity environment and monitoring the activity of thousands of genes in immune cells subjected to inflammation over time.

In addition, the experiments will track changes in the lifespan of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) between space and Earth and simulate the inflammatory response to drug therapy using an immune cell model.

These scientific endeavors aim to enhance our understanding of human health in space and potentially reveal insights into the treatment of inflammatory diseases both in space and on Earth.

These scientific endeavors undertaken by KFSH&RC are part of the Kingdom’s astronaut program and represent a significant component of the National Space Strategy, which has received the approval of the Supreme Space Council, led by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince and Prime Minister.

The program’s initial phase aims to dispatch a male and female Saudi astronaut on a manned mission to the ISS, orbiting approximately 420 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, for a duration of 12 days.

Leading the research team for these experiments is Dr. Khalid Abu Khabar, Chairman of the Department of Molecular Biomedicine and Research Scientist at KFSH&RC.

Dr. Abu Khabar is an esteemed scholar in the field and is joined by Dr. Wejdan Al-Ahmadi and Dr. Edward Hitti in this pioneering endeavor.

The anticipated results of these experiments are expected to provide valuable insights into human health in space and potentially uncover vital indicators or treatments for inflammatory diseases, both in space and on Earth.

During their mission, the two Saudi astronauts, accompanied by the mission crew, will conduct a total of 14 cutting-edge scientific research experiments in microgravity.

The outcomes of these experiments will elevate the Kingdom’s global standing in the field of space exploration while serving the betterment of humanity. Additionally, the mission will include three educational awareness experiments.

Recognized as one of the foremost hospitals in delivering specialized healthcare globally, KFSH&RC has recently earned acclaim in Brand Finance’s 2023 ranking of the world’s premier healthcare institutions.

It secured the 20th position worldwide and emerged as the top-ranked center in the Middle East and Africa.

With KFSH&RC at the forefront of pioneering research in space, Saudi Arabia is positioning itself as a key player in space exploration and advancing our understanding of human health in the cosmos.

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