Medical School: University of Baghdad, Iraq
Residency: Capital Health, NJ
Dr. Najjar grew up in Baghdad, Iraq and studied medicine at the University of Baghdad. He moved to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship to complete a master degree in public health with a concentration in epidemiology at the University of Kentucky. Before residency, he worked in clinical research at Washington University in St Louis. His research focuses on using bioinformatics tools such as RNA-seq to study autoimmune disease. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, playing tennis, and long-exposure photography.
I combine skills in genomics, immunology, and computer science creating and applying bioinformatics methodologies to study rheumatologic autoimmune diseases.
RNA is cut into pieces that are either included or excluded to form mature RNA, and can be re-arranged in different ways, similar to lego pieces that one can stack in different ways or exchange pieces for bigger or smaller ones. These re-arrangements mean cells can make different protein products from the same genomic sequence, which adds a layer of regulation that cells use to fine tune the function of proteins. However, alterations in splicing can drive disease or contribute to its pathology. I research the role alternative splicing plays in autoimmune diseases.
Genes make up <2% of our genetic material, most of the rest is transposable elements. These are DNA sequences that have copy-pasted themselves into different parts of the genome creating many repeating sequences. Some are the result of viruses that infected our ancestors millions of years ago. I study how these genomic repeats play a part in autoimmune diseases.