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Finding Acceptance Through Faith

She leans back into the cream-coloured couch, her long legs stretched out before her, looking casually at ease. But her facial expression is guarded, her arms crossed; revealing a guarded woman who’s wary of trusting. 

Laila*,a Muslim woman, is HIV-positive. She was infected by her husband. Her tall frame seems frail, covered by loose trousers and a billowing tunic shirt. Large blue eyes appear above sculpted cheekbones. On a gentle Sunday afternoon, she pours out years of abuse, acceptance and faith.

Aged 20, Laila fell in love, married the man she loved and fell pregnant almost immediately. A few months later, the couple discovered her husband was HIV-positive. At the time Laila tested HIV-negative, and her son, now 20, was born without the virus. It was 1991, a time when Aids was just starting to make the headlines, but not well, barely understood with massive stigma attached to be positive. Laila stood by him. “I loved him, I didn’t think his status mattered. I’m not a person to judge.” In denial, and refusing to see a doctor, her ex-husband became increasingly became angry at his situation, turning to alcohol, returning her love with physical abuse. 

This continued for eight years, a period she recalls as one of harrowing pain and torture. There was one reprieve, -he always used a condom. Eventually, she couldn’t endure any more. They separated, with Laila taking out a restraining order against him. But one night he ignored it and. Laila’s life changed irrevocably. “He came into the house, and locked Yaseen*, (their son, 7 at the time) in the bedroom. He gave him Stopayne trying to knock him out. And then he came for me.” Laila relays the story calmly. Sitting next to her, Yaseen is equally calm. “That night he abused me senseless. It lasted for hours…he just kept hitting me. It was so bad I was in hospital for a week.” The violence was not confined to fists and kicks. After he beat her, he raped her. 

“I’m at a point where I’m comfortable with this, where I’m coping well. I’ve gone through a long journey, faith has helped me through it.”

Four months later, Laila was diagnosed HIV-positive. She recalls taking it in her stride. “My fear of him was more than my fear of being infected. I had to break through my barrier of fear, the restraining order was the bravest thing I did. I was in denial that I was an abused woman.”

At that time, support organisations like Positive Muslims and the Muslim Aids Programme didn’t exist. Later Fagmieda Miller would establish Positive Muslims. Laila comes from a home where early on, she had to rely on herself. Her mother committed suicide when Laila was 16. Soon after, Laila converted to Islam. She says she turned to God for support. “No, there weren’t any support bases. But I didn’t need it. I’m a very independent person, I only need my Creator. My reliance on Him was enough for me to get where I am today.”

Today, Laila is a strong woman who is completely accepting of who she is. “I’m at a point where I’m comfortable with this, where I’m coping well. I’ve gone through a long journey, faith has helped me through it.” 

 

She’s also a strong mother who has raised a well-mannered young man with whom she shares a remarkable bond. Two years ago, when Yaseen turned eighteen, Laila disclosed her status to him. “I suspected it, because I found strange meds were delivered to her every month even though she wasn’t sick. But it still came as a shock to be told”, he recalls. “I understand why she kept it hidden, I don’t think I would have coped at a younger age.” 

 

Disclosing her status
Yaseen has told one close friend of his mother’s status, while Laila has confided in a small number of friends. One of those friends is someone she regards as a spiritual companion. “We met at a halaqa (religious study circle) and I just knew I could trust her. She’s been very understanding and supportive. I’ve been blessed with a good friend and a sheikh (spiritual mentor) who knows. I’m on a spiritual path now”, she murmurs serenely.

Eagerly, she shows off a room in her house, her sanctuary. A prayer rug lies open on the warmly carpeted floor. Arab-style floor seating lines one wall, frames with verses from the Quran adorn the walls, the Quran and other books take up a corner of the room. It exudes an air of peace and contentment.

“I try my best to live my life as a good Muslim. This is where I’ve found peace”, Laila explains. “This is where I feel accepted.” While Islam is accepting, not all Muslims are. “There are dribs and drabs of people whose attitudeshave changed, but humanity as a whole has a long way to go. People don’t have a deeper level of spirituality; they don’t know the true meaning of Islam.” 

Although Laila is accepting of who she is, she’s wary of being labelled if she publicly declares her status. She’s also afraid Yaseen may suffer because of it. So she discloses her status only to those who she feels need to know. One is her second ex-husband. A friend of her first husband, Ahmed* knew his friend died of Aids. “He was very accepting when I told him I’m living with HIV. We were married for 3 years.” The marriage ended when his family discovered the truth. “They pressured him to divorce me, and eventually, he did.”

Laila married for a third time, to a Saudi Arabian. Here too, she was honest about her status. “But it didn’t work out”, she sighs. “Look, the man wasn’t who he said he was. I discovered he was a pathological liar, and he just wasn’t a good man. So I left.” 

Her previous tarnished experiences have not sworn Laila off marriage. She says she’ll consider it if she meets a good man.

 

 

Support group

Although Laila is not ready to be a public champion for Muslims living with HIV, she wants to do this on a private level. Laila wants to start a support group for other Muslim women secretly living with HIV. “You have people counselling those living with HIV, but they aren’t positive. They haven’t experienced it, so how can they understand. People living with it, who’ve accepted it and are positive in their outlook, should be the ones running support groups.”

She is confident of her ability to be an influence on others. “Look, there is a way. It may sound like it was easy for me to deal with everything, but it wasn’t. It took me a few years, I went on personal transformation workshops, which were empowering. And I relied on my Creator to get me through. I didn’t allow my ex to destroy my life, and now I want to share my journey with others.”

I want to give hope to others. I could have been a victim or the victor. I chose the latter, and I have to say, I’m pretty awesome”, she notes with a cheeky grin.

 

Economic Policy is Key: Mashatile

Nominee for the position of ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile says economic policy, nationalisation of mines, and land expropriation will be key subjects discussed at day two of the party’s national conference. Following the nominations process earlier today, the conference is expected to discuss the organisation’s strategy and policy.

 

“What is important is we want the state to intervene in the economy, more radically than before, so we can solve the problems of poverty and inequality.”

 

He add: “We need state intervention so we don’t leave it to the markets. The state has a role to play to redistribute wealth to deracialise the economy.”

 

 

“What this conference needs to do is create more certainty about economic policy. We can’t have perpetual debate beyond Mangaung because then you don’t have a stable environment.”

 

Cosatu will raise debates on fiscal and monetary policy, which Mashatile says the ANC will entertain since they are reviewing macro-economic policy. He stresses the urgency of a stable economic future. 

 

“What this conference needs to do is create more certainty about economic policy. We can’t have perpetual debate beyond Mangaung because then you don’t have a stable environment. Therefore economic policy is key.”

 

Although the ANC Youth League is arguing for land expropriation, Mashatile says that approach is not supported. “But there may be strong support to increase the pace of land redistribution.”

 

This due to 2013 marking 100 years since the Native Land Act was passed, a law which decreed that only a small portion of land could be owned by Blacks. 

 

ANC merchandise is good business

Prada, Gucci and the like may be the usual branded clothing choices for the well-heeled, but at Mangaung, ANC comrades are shelling out on a different brand; the party’s brand.

Vendors are doing a brisk trade selling merchandise ranging from leather jackets and t-shirts to clocks and water bottles; all embellished with the ANC insignia.

 

They’ve arrived from all over the country hoping to go home with a Christmas bonus. To be a vendor, card-carrying members of the ANC apply for accreditation, paying a R500 registration fee. Many are regulars, accustomed to thriving business at ANC conferences.

Fanus Nkwanyana from KwaZulu-Natal works for a voting delegate from his province. A fascinator hat is the main item on offer. A small hat fetches a price of R1100, the larger one R1500. Nkwanyana has sold 7 hats in 2 days.

T-shirts and caps are the primary big sellers. Thabiso Mkhize, also from Kwa-Zulu Natal, claims to have made R30 000, before expenses, since Saturday. Caps sell for R70, cowboy hats for R100 and t-shirts for R200.

 

At the ANC policy conference held at Gallagher Estate, Johannesburg in June, she made a profit of R25000 in one week.

 

But, Margaret Marule from Soweto, selling leather jackets and jerseys, doesn’t think business is good. “It was better before. Now, business is not so nice. We are losing.” The heat in Bloemfontein may be a contributing factor.

Another seller from KwaZulu-Natal, Silindile Sibeko, agrees Mangaung has not been as profitable as expected. At the ANC policy conference held at Gallagher Estate Johannesburg, in June, she made a profit of R25000 in one week. “I’ve been here for 3 days but I haven’t made a profit as yet. I’m hoping or the best.”

Vendors say the distance of their stalls from the main plenary tent is the problem. “We registered, and were given stalls inside the venue. But it was far from the delegates, and from the breakfast centre. So we moved outside. It’s still not suitable, the delegates don’t come outside.” 

Dali Ndiza from Soweto also chose to move his stall outside. He’s more positive, and says by being outside he’s getting business from non-delegates too. Ndiza owns a stall at the Rosebank craft market, catering for tourists. Some of his products are hand-made, thus offering something different from the others.

Also plying his own work is Linani Zwane, an artist from KwaZulu-Natal. He designs clocks with an African feel and etches the ANC logo onto glass water bottles, jugs and drinking glasses. Due to his fragile stock, he says, “People say they’ll come back on the last day to buy. It looks promising.”

 

Iraq’s Soil Turning White

Initiative aims to find ways to protect farmland in Iraq from the rising levels of salt in soil.

Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla

ICARDA

The Epic of Atraasis, an ancient Babylonian story tells of how fields in ancient Mesoptomia turned white after salt seeped into the soil.

Almost four thousand years later, Iraq is losing valuable farming land to rising levels of salinity in soil and groundwater due to a failing drainage infrastructure that has fallen into disrepair.

In December 2010, the Iraqi government called on local and international organisations to conduct research to improve the management of saline soil and water resources. “The Iraq Salinity Project is an initiative taken by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA),” says Luigi Cavestro, project coordinator. “Currently, it’s estimated that 25% of Iraq’s irrigated land — 2 million hectares — does not permit crop cultivation.”

The land lost to salinity is causing food and income insecurity, affecting the poorest people most, he adds.

Financed by the Australian and Italian governments, the initiative is assessing the state of irrigation and drainage infrastructure. It will then offer advice on the best cultivation practices for different salt-tolerant crops, and develop ways to improve soil, irrigation and water and drainage management for salinity control.

The researchers had discussions with farmers to determine what problems they encountered and to see how they are dealing with the problem now. Cavestro expects the results of the research to be released by February 2013. “We are at an advanced stage of the research, but need to validate our results in the coming months.”

The researchers are looking at five pilot sites in central and southern Iraq: Dijaila, Mussaib, Abu-Khaseeb, West Gharraf and Shat-al-Arab.

Cavestro is hopeful the initiative will guide Iraqi policymakers to best address the problem of salinity while “increasing agriculture production with long-term sustainable actions.”

“This will probably take time. The project works at different levels — farmers, district, regional and national,” he adds.

Mushtaqe Ahmed, director of the Center for Environmental Studies and Research in Oman, conducted an environmental salinity study for the Gulf state. He says the Iraq study is important for the whole region. “Salinity is a serious problem in the Arab world, especially in the Gulf states. The problem is there to stay. So the solution has to deal with how to live with salinity.”

Sub-Saharan Africans join forces for TB vaccine research

[JOHANNESBURG] Researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa are playing a key role in the development of a new tuberculosis (TB) vaccine, following South Africa’s lead, a meeting in Johannesburg heard last week (20 March).

At the meeting, held before World TB Day (24 March), researchers launched a blueprint on TB vaccine research for the next decade, and discussed the role the country and the region will play in TB vaccine research.

South Africa has the second-highest incidence of TB worldwide, which makes it an appropriate place to test new vaccines. There are 1,000 cases per 100,000 people in South Africa, compared with around 200 in India and less than 100 in China, according to David Mametja of the South African Department of Health.

He added that South Africa has the highest number of TB cases per capita in the world.

Each year, there are about nine million new cases of TB and 1.5 million deaths. Most countries where the disease is endemic give children the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, but this does not protect adults from pulmonary TB, the most common and infectious form of the disease.

There are 15 vaccines in clinical trials, and many more in preclinical stages of research and development.

Hassan Mahomed, co-director of the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI), said it was “important for Sub-Saharan Africa to take the initiative and develop a vaccine … There are excellent scientists in South Africa who understand the epidemic and can conduct research”.

Gavin Churchyard, chief executive officer of the Aurum Institute, a non-profit research organisation based in South Africa, agreed. “South African researchers are playing a leading role internationally in research and diagnostics,” he said.

South Africa is collaborating with nine other institutions in Africa. For example, SATVI has formed partnerships for clinical trials with research institutions in Kenya, Mozambique and Uganda.

SATVI, according to Mahomed, is leading the way in South Africa.

“We have tested five vaccine candidates and have led eight vaccine trials,” he said, adding that phase 2A clinical trials are currently being conducted on one vaccine candidate — MVA85A — with results expected early next year.

“This is the first time we’ll have efficacy results, to determine if this trial prevents TB. We’ll be making history,” said Mahomed.

Africa-wide monitoring tool aims to boost food security

Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla

 

28 March 2012 | EN | FR

African scientists
The initiative will give stakeholders access to integrated data from a wide range of information sources

Flickr/CIMMYT

[JOHANNESBURG] An innovative tool for monitoring agricultural production and ecosystem health in Africa could boost food security and decrease environmental degradation across the continent.

The Africa Monitoring System (AMS) tool was launched last month (23 February), and aims to provide real-time integrated data on agriculture, ecosystems services and human well-being, assembled in six indicator categories, whichpolicymakers and organisations can use to better understand trade-offs that result from increased agricultural production.

Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania will be the first countries to contribute data to the tool, in the first of three phases targeting five regions in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The US-based non-governmental organisation Conservation International is a co-leader of the project, and Sandy Andelman, CI’s vice president, said data will be collected by automated sensors as well as manual observations and measurements from technicians. Data will also be incorporated from  household surveys using smart phones.

“The data will be summarised into a set of holistic indicators and displayed on [an open access] web-based dashboard. Raw data and analytical outputs will be available through the web as well as various customised reports on particular topics,” she told SciDev.Net.

Policy nodes at national, sub-national and international scales will be established, and regular input from policymakers will be obtained to ensure they understand the service and are receiving relevant information from it.

Andelman, who will serve as AMS executive director, said the tool’s target audience will be policymakers at the international, national and regional level, donors, agricultural extension systems, non-governmental organisations andfarmers‘ associations.

He said farmers would also benefit indirectly through improvements to livelihoods and the maintenance of ecosystems.

Keith Shepherd, chief soil scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre, Kenya, said the system would help generate more evidence-informed decisions.

But he warned that “one of the key challenges will be good planning and coordination across multiple agencies so that everything comes together into a smooth operation”.

“If standardised and systematic processes with good quality control are not put in place, we may just end up with a lot of messy data from different sites that cannot be combined,” he said, adding that data handling, statistical analysis and interpretation, and obtaining sufficient investment were also potential challenges.

AMS is headed up by CI, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa and the US-based Earth Institute, and has received significant funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Business of stem cell banks questioned

Umbilical cords are in demand for therapies that exploit neonatal stem cells, but some private cell banks are accused of taking advantage of parents.

Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla

Virgin Health Bank

Private stem cell banking is a steadily growing business in the Arab region, with parents increasingly aware of the potentially life-saving benefit of preserving a newborn’s umbilical cord. Cord blood treatment is currently used in therapy for a number of cancers; blood, metabolic and immune disorders. While harvesting and storing blood from the umbilical cord is not a controversial medical practice in the Middle East, there are several ethical issues that need to be considered.

Umbilical cord blood transplantation, even from a mismatched donor, is an effective alternative treatment for a bone marrow transplant if marrow from a matched donor is unavailable. Hind Humaidan, director of the Cord Blood Bank set up in 2003 at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Saudi Arabia, says her hospital has performed more than 3,500 bone marrow transplants, but that finding a suitable donor is often a major obstacle.

Since the cord blood bank’s launch, it has collected 3,725 UCB samples. Humaidan says the non-profit public cord bank has benefited patients, and has resulted in huge savings for the hospital. “We used to pay US$30,000 to US$35,000 to import and transplant UCB. The cost to transplant a local unit from our bank is US$7,300.”

The American Academy of Paediatrics, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the World Marrow Donor Association have all questioned the benefit of private stem cell banking, arguing there is no real advantage in autologous transplantation. The banks have also been criticized for aggressive marketing to expectant parents. “You cannot tell people if you don’t donate your baby’s umbilical cord blood cells (UCB), your child may possibly die. That’s just wrong,” said Rajan Jethwa, head of Virgin Health Bank (VHB) in Qatar, speaking at a panel discussion at the Qatar International Conference on Stem Cell Science and Policy in February 2012

Jethwa argues that the aggressive marketing of some private cell banks is driven by a commercial imperative which can override promoting the medical value of stem-cell preservation. Although VHB, headquartered in the United Kingdom, has existed as a private enterprise since opening in Qatar in 2009, a new public-private model will come into effect this year under which a sample of the child’s cells will be banked privately, and the remainder, with parental permission, will be placed into the public bank. “Thus social enterprises can make a profit and do good,” Jethwa explains. “I like to think we are the architects of Arab stem cell banks.”

The state will pay the bank to operate the public donor bank, which will be fully managed by VHB.

Therapeutic potential

Medical professionals encourage the donation of UCB to public stem cell banks since, like blood banks, they benefit the wider community. Humaidan, suggests banks should accurately explain to parents the terms of donation and how it can benefit others. “Most mothers, if approached correctly, agree to donate cord blood.”

“In Saudi Arabia, large families are common, so there’s a larger donor pool for UCB,” says Humaidan, suggesting this would solve the problem of the lack of matched donors. Since the bank opened in 2003, the hospital has done 219 successful UCB transplants.

Both Humaidan and Jethwa confirm that once parents donate umbilical cords to a public bank by informed consent, they concede control of the tissue. “However, if it’s needed for a transplant and it’s still available, it will be given to the patient,” says Humaidan.

Qatari women scientists aim for the top

Four young female researchers are trailblazing their way to becoming leading stem-cell scientists in Qatar’s thrust to become a top country of research.

Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla

Heba Al-Siddiqi explaining her work to Sir Magdi Yacoub.Nature Middle East

Stem cell research began in Qatar in 2007 when the Qatar Foundation joined forces with the Baker Institute, a policy institute and part of Rice University in Houston, Texas. Their goal is to help develop stem-cell research in the small Gulf country.

One of the first steps taken by the collaborations was to form the International Programme on Stem Cell Science and Policy, charged with examining the ethical and religious issues involved in stem-cell science, relevant to Arab culture, and engaging with local communities. Five years on, the plan is bearing fruit.

Hamda Al-Thawadi, Halema Al-Farsi, Heba Al-Siddiqi and Sarah Abdullah joined the Qatar Science Leadership Program (QSLP), a QF initiative that aims to groom Qataris to take leading roles in Qatari science and one day steer its ambitious national programme of research.

The QSLP sends students to train at some of the best universities in the world. And 2011 saw Al-Thwadi and Al-Farsi go to one of France’s largest universities, University Paris-Sud 11, Al-Siddiqi go to Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Massachusetts and Abdullah go to the University of Cambridge in the UK.

At the Qatar International Conference on Stem Cell Science and Policy held this past week in Doha, Al-Thawadi, Al-Farsi and Al-Siddiqi presented their research on ovarian cancer and obesity-related diseases. Al-Thawadi practiced medicine for two years before applying for the QSLP. “In the past there was only one path for a medical doctor, treating patients. But when QF started this programme, they created a new path for doctors or graduates interested in science,” she says. “This is a perfect chance for Qatar to create home-grown researchers.”

A bioethics class at Cardiff University in the UK got Al-Siddiqi hooked. “There was a lot of controversy over using embryonic cells, so I took a class which made me read more about stem-cell research, and decided to go into it.”

Relevant research

 

Hamda Al-Thawadi standing next to her poster on ovarian cancer and thrombosis.Nature Middle East

The first research paper Al-Siddiqi’s co-authored was published inNature Cell Biology in February 2012. “It felt amazing, especially after all the hours of hard work,” she says.

Al-Thawadi and Al-Farsi decided to work on ovarian cancer as it is highly prevalent in the Middle East. Al-Thawadi incubated cancer cells in culture with Protein C, a coagulation factor, to test its effect on thrombosis of ovarian cancer cells, which led to a significant increase in metastasis. “This gives us a clue to outline preventative measures for thrombosis in ovarian cancer patients,” she explains.

For the past year, Al-Farsi looked into ways to reprogram certain cancer stem cells. “They contain PD117, a factor found only in stem cells which allows them to regenerate. The same principle can be applied to other cancers.”

Abdullah realised halfway through medical school in Nottingham University in the UK that research interested her more. She returned to Qatar with a neuroscience degree to look for an institution that would fund her to “research stem cell and neurological disorders, which aren’t very common in Qatar at the moment.”

Abdullah’s focus is on the role of the transcription factor oxo-3a in myelin-forming cells called oligodendrocytes. When the factor disappears from cells after trauma or disease it can lead to neurodegeneration. “I hope to promote formation of differentiating cells by studying stem cells and look at why oligodendrocytes fail to remyelinate,” Abdullah elaborates.

None of the budding young researchers feel they’ve faced gender discrimination. “It’s better to be a female,” laughs Al-Siddiqi. “I feel more privileged, and I think I’m treated better and there’s a lot of support.”

Living in Paris, Al-Farsi at first felt a bit out of place, and felt judged wearing a hijab, but has since settled in. “I feel accepted now.”

Abdullah feels she is playing an important role in dispelling misconceptions about Arab women. “As an Arab woman I think people abroad are shocked at how modern and knowledgeable we are. For a long time Muslim women have made a name for themselves, and I’m just joining a group of established women.”

CORRECTED:

The original article mistakenly stated Heba Al-Siddiqi published her first co-authored paper in Nature. It was published in Nature Cell Biology.

  • References

    1. Ahfeldt, T. et al. Programming human pluripotent stem cells into white and brown adipocytes. Nature Cell Biology 14, 209-219 (2012)doi:10.1038/ncb2411 | Article | PubMed | CAS |

Ancient Egypt in 3D

Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla

The Valley of the Kings; The Karnak Temple Complex and the Temple of Hatshepsut. Just three of the marvellous attractions of Luxor in Egypt, the site of the ancient city of Thebes, which have lured people from afar for millennia. Now, new 3D technology may offer virtual visitors the change to gaze at those ancient wonders without as much as a tourist bus in sight.

Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have used new imaging technology to construct 3D models of these ancient wonders.

Shooting an Egyptian temple with the CAVEcam at nightGreg Wickham

The teams employed CAVEcam photography: two cameras rigged to snap the shutters simultaneously, each taking 72 photographs for panoramic views of 360° vistas. Only three such systems have ever been built, one belongs to its designer, Dick Ainsworth, and the other two are at KAUST and USCD.

“There is no system other than the CAVEcam that can capture 3D images covering the complete sphere — 360 degrees by 180 degrees,” says Ainsworth.

“The CAVEcam has two cameras sitting side by side which replicate both the distance and view of the human eye. So as a result you have a left and right eye perspective of photos taken,” explains Adel Saad, systems administrator at KAUST’s Visualisation Lab. The cameras reposition automatically at regular intervals for subsequent photographs to capture the entire scene, from sky to ground.

Software stitches simpler images together, but more complex scenes need to be stitched manually, taking from 12 hours up to a week. “The stitching process is automatic only in the most trivial sense. It is fairly easy to combine multiple images of a scene to create a single composite photograph. Creating matched stereo images that accurately represent the complete spherical view as seen from each eye, however, is complex. The entire stereo image must be created to accurately duplicate what our eyes see.”

With KAUST boasting one of the most advanced imaging facilities in the world, the next step is to integrate sound and touch into the experience. The team envisions cyberarchaeology, whereby historic sites are preserved and made digitally available in special, 3D visualization facilities, such as those available in KAUST. “I can look at a 3D image of a piece of ceramics and feel the holes and little chips in it, without it actually being there,” explains Saad. He expects such technological developments may be seen in as little as six months to a year.

It can also allow researchers from around the world to study artefacts without worrying about shipping them overseas or accidentally damaging or contaminating them.

Currently, the images and 3D visualization lab are only accessible to KAUST students, faculty and collaborating researchers. Saad hopes the 3D immersive images will be made available to the public in the near future.

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