Aïcha is a postdoctoral researcher at the Autism Research Centre. She investigates atypical neuronal development in the autism brain using patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC). She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge and she was co-supervised by Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen, Dr Mark Kotter at the Laboratory of Regenerative Medicine (LRM), Stem Cell Institute, Cambridge and Dr Deepak Srivastava at KCL. Her PhD was funded by the International Trust Yousef Jameel Scholarship and the Autism Research Trust.
Prior to coming to Cambridge, she completed an MSc in Biotechnology at the University of Greenwich, and a BSc in Biotechnology at the University for Modern Science and Arts, Egypt, where she was also an Assistant Lecturer. She also worked as a Research Assistant in the Breast Cancer Lab at Cairo University, at the National Cancer Institute and the Neuroscience division at the Centre for Ageing and Age-related disorders at the Zewail City of Science and Technology, Egypt.
When not in the lab, Aïcha takes a huge interest in autism advocacy and science communication, as she took the role of Outreach coordinator in Cambrain: the Cambridge neuroscience society, as well as organising the Wolfson Research Event which aims to communicates research to a wider lay audience. In Egypt, she developed and facilitated autism inclusion programs across university campuses as well as autism awareness campaigns with Rotaract Cairo Royal and the Egyptian Autistic Society.
Recently, Aïcha collaborated with the WHO’s regional office of the EMRO region (Cairo) to survey the Country Resources for Children and Adolescents with Developmental Delays, Disorders and Disabilities, a survey that included more than 20 countries. She has also been appointed as an associate editor in Maqal Elmy; a social initiative aiming at exposing the Arabic speaking laymen to state-of-the-art research through the simplification and translation of peer-reviewed publications.
Aïcha’s focus is the combined use of stem cell and genetic engineering technologies to develop a live model of early brain development, that mimic’s that of autistic people with specific genetic mutations. Recent technologies developed in Mark Kotter’s lab allow the forward programming of iPSC cells into neurons using synthetic biology to integrate specific transcription factors into safe-harbour genomic loci. This allows the accelerated generation of mature functional neurons within three weeks from induction. The main goal of using these methods is to investigate the role of autism high risk genes (such as Neurexin I) and its role in synaptic transmission in induced neurons. Additionally, she has particular interest in the epigenetics of autism and the correlation of methylation signatures with autistic traits. Aïcha is driven to be part of the movement linking industry to academia and one of the roles she played was representative for Milner therapeutics to bridge the gap the between bench-work and the pharma and biotech- industries.
Links to profile on LinkedIn and Cambridge Neuroscience:
- Environmental Pressures on Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance, (2020), D Adhya, A Massrali, A Paul, M Kotter, J Carroll, D Srivastava, J Price, S Baron-Cohen
- Integrated genetic and methylomic analyses identify shared biology between autism and autistic traits, Molecular Autism 10, 31 (2019), A Massrali, H Brunel, E Hannon, C Wong, S Baron-Cohen, V Warrier
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