U of A graduate student wins IADR Unilever Hatton Award

Canadian representative Mohamed Omar wins first place out of 27 countries.

Tarwinder Rai - 6 April 2017

Graduate student Mohamed Omar is the 2017 International Association for Dental Research (IADR) Unilever Hatton Award winner. As Canada's representative in the international competition, his research has placed him at the top.

Omar competed against 27 other countries and received first place in the competition.

"It was unexpected and felt amazing," says Omar, who was presented the award during the IADR conference opening ceremony, March 22. "I knew I was presenting solid research which I was very passionate about."

To represent Canada, Omar first won the prize for best manuscript in the basic science division/senior category from the Canadian Association for Dental Research in October 2016. His study, Bone marrow transplant from periodontal diseased mice increases atherosclerosis, placed him in the international competition, representing Canada.

Surprisingly, Omar had first entered the competition to practice his thesis writing and learn the process. But his confidence during the 20-minute presentation and question period had him headed for success.

Working with his supervisor and professor Maria Febbraio and research associate Maria Alexiou, Omar's research shows that having an inflammatory disease like periodontitis could potentially increase a person's risk of heart disease.

"Periodontal disease induces a lasting change in the bone marrow. So even though you may have received treatment for it, the effect of the disease lasts in your body. Therefore you still have a high risk of getting heart disease," he says. "We've shown there is change in the bone marrow, so now our next steps are to pinpoint what these changes are."

For Febrraio the research and the award carry similar weight.

"This study could have important ramifications in terms of how we treat diseases like periodontal disease, and even more compelling, may change our thinking about risk factors in general," says Febbraio. "I am very proud of Mohamed's achievement. He represented the entire nation of Canada and has brought recognition to the good science being done in our lab. It shows that the changes in our graduate program are paying off and that our students are competitive in the international arena."