Mustafa al'Absi, Ph.D., professor of behavioral sciences at the University of Minnesota Medical School – Duluth Campus, and director of the Duluth Medical Research Institute, has received funding and launched a new first-of-its-kind international research initiative: "Khat Research Program: Neurobehavioral Impact of Long-Term Use".
In conjunction with several international universities, al'Absi has scheduled an inaugural symposium for the Khat Research Program (KRP), scheduled within the 9th Society of Neuroscientists of Africa (SONA) Conference, at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, December 11, 2009. In addition to al'Absi, speakers will include: Stephan Bongard (Frankfurt University, Germany); Richard Hoffman (University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth), Nilesh Patel (University of Nairobi, Kenya), Abdul Mohammed (Växjö University, Sweden), Michael Odenwald (University of Konstanz, Germany). Conference Poster
Khat, a psychostimulant plant widely used in Africa and the Middle East, is associated with serious health effects among young people and women in many countries in Africa and the Middle East where use of Khat also threatens sustainable development. Khat use also has grown significantly among immigrants in several countries in Europe and North America.
The KRP will establish a multidisciplinary research and training program focusing on the concurrent use of nicotine and khat. The program has two primary goals: a) to develop collaborative relationships and provide needed capacity-building resources that will include a series of research training workshops, relevant training on ethical standards of research, and semi-annual meetings to develop future programmatic research; and b) to complete preliminary research to determine biobehavioral consequences of long-term khat and tobacco use.
The KRP will be coordinated by al'Absi from the University of Minnesota Medical School—Duluth campus, with collaborators from other universities in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
al'Absi received an R21 grant from the National Institute of Health to launch the research. The award was funded within the NIH initiative titled "Brain Disorders in the Developing World: Research Across the Lifespan (BRAIN)" and is the first-step in developing an R01-funded program. It will help in assessing research and training needs and generating preliminary data for the collaborative research to be proposed in the follow-up R01 submission.