KSU to host lectures by Faisal Prize laureates


RIYADH — Two winners of the 2019 King Faisal Prize will speak on advancements in their respective fields at King Saud University in Riyadh on Sunday.

The lectures are organized by King Faisal Prize as part of the efforts of the two entities to encourage scientific research and enhance the quality of life around the world.

Internationally known medical researcher Professor Bjorn Reino Olsen will reveal the latest findings in the area of genetic bone diseases during his lecture on the topic, “Mechanisms for control of bone development, growth and function — lessons from genetic studies”.

He will highlight the key discoveries that have enhanced the understanding of bone development, and the basis of inherited skeletal disorders, including osteoporosis.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field of bone biology, Professor Olsen was recently honored with the 2019 King Faisal Prize in Medicine.

Genetic disorders related to the skeletal system remain a major challenge for medical science due to their sheer variety, with almost 400 forms of abnormal bone cell growth identified so far.

However, there is hope in sight as medical researchers have managed to gain access to a critical area in cell functioning: cell-to-cell communication. A better understanding of the intricacies of cell-to-cell communication has now opened up new possibilities in the diagnosis and treatment of such diseases.

A crucial mode of these cell communications is “Wnt signaling”, an important signaling pathway that determines decisions related to cell and tissue formation during embryonic stage as well as in later development. Defective signaling leads to several diseases and abnormalities, including skeletal effects.

A significant step forward in the understanding of this signaling system was made with the identification of genes responsible for two rare inherited diseases: Osteoporosis Pseudoglioma and Sclerosteosis. While Osteoporosis Pseudoglioma is characterized by too little bone, Sclerosteosis leads to too much bone.

Remarkably, these findings have in turn led to the development of novel drugs in the treatment of osteoporosis, one of the most common bone diseases.

Meanwhile, American chemist Professor Allen Joseph Bard will offer deep insights into the latest advances in electrochemical imaging.

Thirty years ago, Professor Bard developed a powerful technique to scan and analyze electrochemical reactions on surfaces at microscopic scales, creating a defining moment in science that unleashed previously unimaginable benefits in several areas.

The invention of the scanning electrochemical microscope in 1987 by Professor Bard is now recognized as a powerful technique for imaging nano particles, offering major advantages in areas such as biotechnology, cell biology, physiology, corrosion science and fuel cell development. For his groundbreaking research, Professor Bard was honored with the 2019 King Faisal Prize in Science in the field of Chemistry.

With technological advances in microscopy, it has become possible to study and control matter at the nano level, enabling scientists to alter individual atoms and molecules, leading to major innovations in the fields of chemistry, biology and material science. — SG