Ettaib El Marabti, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), led a team of researchers in the first comprehensive review of minor intron splicing.
Scientific discoveries in this less studied area of genomics could lead to new approaches to fight three categories of diseases: cancer, autoimmune disorders and neurological disorders.
El Marabti graduated from CMU-Q with a BS in Biological Sciences and is currently a fourth year student at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q). CMU-Q and WCM-Q are partner universities of the Qatar Foundation (QF).
During his research, El Marabti was guided by Ihab Younis of CMU-Q, Head of Biological Sciences Sector, and Joel Malek, Director of the WCM-Q Genomics Laboratory, both of whom are co-authors of the review.
Younis believes the review is an important step in an emerging field: “Minor intron splicing is not very well studied in the context of disease and pathology. The researchers focused on the mechanism at the cellular level, but this article examines the relationship between the mechanism and the disease and offers some insight into how we can use our knowledge for therapeutic purposes.
Michael Trick, Dean of CMU-Q, congratulated the team, saying: “This collaboration shows how the vision of Education City as a ‘multi-versity’ can have a huge impact in the world. I especially want to congratulate Ettaib for taking an idea from his undergraduate research and developing it into this important piece of scientific literature.
The idea for the review began at CMU-Q, where, under Younis’ leadership, El Marabti led an undergraduate research project that used minor intron splicing as a new biomarker for cancer of the breast. breast. It won the “Best Project” and “Best Poster” awards at the Meeting of the Minds 2017 research symposium organized by CMU-Q.
After graduation El Marabti continued to contribute to Younis’ lab and a year later they published an article in “Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences”, titled “The cancer spliceome: Reprogramming of alternative splicing in cancer “.
El Marabti recalls discussing the idea of a journal at the time: “In the first article we have a small section where we mention the broader implications, but we felt the topic deserved its own focus. It wasn’t a good time in 2018, but it was still in our heads.
In 2020, El Marabti was a third year medical student at WCM-Q and he was considering what project to pursue for his research needs. He approached Younis, along with WCM-Q’s Malek, to take the exam.
Younis recalls, “There has been so much work done in this area since 2018. I suggested that under the guidance of Professor Malek and myself, he could do the research project with the intention of publishing it.
Over a six-month period, El Marabti has collected over 160 journal articles that have been published on the subject. After the WCM-Q research requirement was completed, Younis, Malek, and El Marabti worked together to prepare the document for publication.
“The end product was excellent,” said Younis. “I consider myself to be an expert in the field, and there were still things I learned.”
The journal, titled “Minor intron splicing, from basic science to disease”, was published in the “International Journal of Molecular Sciences” in June of this year. This was a guest article for the special issue “Splicing modulators that affect gene expression”.
Younis’ research on minor intron splicing is supported by the Qatar Foundation through the Seed Research Program at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar and by a grant from the Qatar National Research Fund through the Research Program on national priorities. QNRF is a member of QF.