Qassim UniversityHow Qassim University is revamping research with nematodes

How Qassim University is revamping research with nematodes

At Saudi Arabia’s Qassim University, research into non-parasitic nematodes as a model for ecotoxicological studies could have numerous uses

Our understanding of the ways that chemicals – both natural and synthetic – affect the human body can be greatly improved through animal testing. However, such tests face increasing financial and ethical pressures. This is why the work of Saleh Alhoierieny, professor of pesticide toxicity at Saudi Arabia’s Qassim University, is generating such excitement. His research into the use of non-parasitic nematodes as a model for ecotoxicological studies could help streamline research projects in several fields.

“Research everywhere is facing financial challenges,” Alhoierieny explains. “During my time as a PhD student at the University of Nottingham, I used nematodes, small tube-like organisms that are among the most abundant animals on Earth. They are inexpensive compared to other animals used for experiments, like rats. My research today is looking into additional uses for non-parasitic nematodes for inexpensive initial testing.”

Although there are questions about whether nematodes are suitable as a model for tests on more developed animals, Alhoierieny and his team believe they are ideal for initial studies. This can help determine whether a research project is worth pursuing before further financial outlay is committed.

“Our research model of using nematodes can deliver a number of real-world impacts,” Alhoierieny says. “For example, in medicine, ecotoxicology and other fields, the use of nematodes provides several benefits. You can receive a huge number of nematodes from a single, small agar plate and from these you can generate a large amount of information regarding genetics, neurology and many other subjects.”

In response to his research, Alhoierieny has received a number of requests from academics in Pakistan, India and other countries requesting a full breakdown of his findings. This highlights the important role that collaboration plays in the field.

“We have partnerships with pharmacies, colleges, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, and funding authorities in Saudi Arabia,” Alhoierieny says. “With regard to other higher education institutions, I have also worked with researchers from Aligarh Muslim University, as well as universities from several other countries. I have around 60 research publications in my name, many co-authored by talented peers from around the world.” 

In the future, it is hoped that Alhoierieny’s research will lead to further advances that involve nematodes. This is likely to touch upon a number of fields – from agriculture to medicine.

“I would like to develop and improve this model for use in numerous different studies,” Alhoierieny notes. “For instance, we can use nematodes to gain a better understanding of the environmental impact of pesticides or other chemicals that may have been used for a long time in commercial farming. Often these are residual impacts that are easily missed or not discovered for many years. By exposing nematodes to any kind of chemical, it is easy to collect a clear result from your experiment.”

With rising concerns around the impact of agricultural chemicals on human health – even around natural compounds – it’s hoped that testing on nematodes could allay a number of anxieties. “Nematodes can form a key part of initial studies into the potential impact of many products,” Alhoierieny says. “They serve as a gateway into a safer, less expensive experimental future.”

Find out more about Qassim University.

Brought to you by