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From Childhood Passion For Astronomy To Growing Stem Cells In Space, Meet Dr Abba Zubair

2 March 2018



Science Hero (es): I have many science heroes among the top ones are Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein.


Research: Cellular treatment for diseases, Stem cells and Transfusion medicine




Growing up in Kano, Nigeria, Dr Abba Zubair became fascinated with science since elementary school when his dream was to become an astronaut and go to space someday. As he was preparing to apply for college, a career adviser told him it might be a long time before Nigeria sends rockets and astronauts into space. As a result, he channelled his passion for science towards medicine. Dr Zubair attended Dawakin Kudu Science College Kano, followed by a medical degree from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria, and then had his internship at Murtala Muhammad Specialist Hospital, Kano. 


Dr Zubair’s passion for science took him to Sheffield, UK, where he obtained a PhD in Cancer Immunobiology, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania USA, on a project involving the use of recombinant Listeria vaccines for human papillomavirus-related malignancies. This vaccine is currently undergoing phase 3 clinical trials. He furthered his training with a clinical residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Clinical Pathology, a fellowship in Transfusion Medicine at the Harvard Medical Center, Boston USA and MSc in Clinical Trials and Principles of Drug Development at Harvard University and MIT. He currently serves as a consultant in Transfusion Medicine and associate professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.


Allowing him to combine his childhood passion with medicine, in 2017 his work on the impact of gravity on stem cell biology was one of the only 3 in the United States selected by Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration  (NASA) to be conducted in the International Space Station. At the launch site, Dr Zubair said "my feeling is a piece of me going to space." His research explores how stem cells could be stimulated to grow faster so that they can be used to treat illnesses. He hopes that the stem cells sent to space would grow faster and therefore facilitate stem cell therapy for diseases.


Although they could use the stem cells for many applications, Dr Zubair is particularly interested in using them for the treatment of stroke. This is for a personal reason; Stroke took away his mother two decades ago. He said "my dad died when I was 5, and my mum developed hemorrhagic stroke, which eventually ends her life, these were life-changing events for me and I do not want anyone to lose their loved ones especially the way it took my mum"



Follow your passion and never let anybody discourage you



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