Nezar Al-hebshi, PhD

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Research Interests

The microbiome associated with oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). In a series of publications, Dr. Al-Hebshi and collaborators have investigated the bacteriome (16S sequencing) and mycobiome (ITS sequencing) associated with OSCC. In these studies, they provide the first epidemiological evidence for the association of Fusobacterium nucleatum, P. aeruginosa, Campylobacter spp. and Prevotella spp. with OSCC and substantiate evidence for the possible role of C. albicans. More importantly, and based on functional prediction, they show that the bacteriome associated with OSCC is inflammatory, which is a very important finding given the established role of inflammation in cancer. Dr. Al-Hebshi has recently received a grant from NIDCR to use metatranscriptome sequencing to the study the inter-kingdom microbiome and its interaction with the host transcriptome in OSCC.

The potential anti-cancer properties of oral bacterial commensals.  While extensive literature exists about the role of oral bacterial pathogens like Porphyromonas gingivalis and Fusobacterium nucleatum in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), the role of health-associated species has been largely unexplored. Dr. Al-Hebshi is interested in exploring commensal oral bacteria as anti-cancer and immune-modulatory agents. In a study funded by Pennsylvania Department of Health, Dr. Al-Hebshi has recently screened six oral health-associated bacteria against three OSCC cell lines in vitro. Two of these species, S. mitis and H. parainfluenzae, demonstrated dose-dependent cytotoxicity against the cell lines and induced global transcriptional changes consistent with anti-cancer properties. Further work is being carried out to validated these findings in animals.

Lab Overview

The Oral Microbiome Research Laboratory explores the role of the oral microbiome and its interaction with the host in health and disease. These efforts help to improve understanding of the etiology and pathogenesis of diseases—including dental caries, periodontitis, oral candidiasis and oral cancer—and to aid researchers in the development of strategies for treatment and prevention. Dr. Al-Hebshi’s current research focuses on the following areas:

  • Modelling and modulation of the oral microbiome.
  • Deciphering the role of the microbiome in oral diseases, oral cancer in particular.

He has received over one-million dollars of funding to support his work.

Dr. Al-Hebshi earned his dental degree from the University of Science and Technology (UST), Yemen in 1999, followed by a direct PhD in oral microbiology from Bergen University, Norway, in 2005. Before joining Kornberg, he held faculty positions at Jazan University in Saudi Arabia (2012–2016) and UST (2005–2011). Dr. Al-Hebshi has authored 50 international publications, and he holds an h-index of 24. He serves as a reviewer for several international journals and has presented his research findings at meetings across four continents.

Selected Publications

Baraniya D, Jain V, Tam V, Vanderveer L, Puri S, Yang J, AL-hebshi NN. Screening of health-associated oral bacteria for anticancer properties in vitro. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2020; 10:575656.

Amer A, Wade A, Al-Hebshi NN, Healy CM, Moran GP. Acetaldehyde production by Rothia mucilaginosa isolates from patients with oral leukoplakia. Journal of Oral Microbiology 2020, 12(1): 1743066.

Perera M, Al-hebshi NN, Perera I, Ipe D, Ulett G, Speicher DJ, Chen T, Johnson NW. The Inflammatory Bacteriome and Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Journal of Dental research 2018, 97: 725-732

Perera M, Al-hebshi NN, Perera I, Ipe D, Ulett G, Speicher DJ, Chen T, Johnson NW. A Dysbiotic Mycobiome Dominated by Candida albicans is Identified within Oral Squamous Cell Carcinomas. Journal of Oral Microbilogy 2017, Article: 1385369

Al-hebshi NN, Nasher AT, Maryoud MY, Homeida HE, Chen T, Idris IM, and Johnson NW. Inflammatory bacteriome featuring Fusobacterium nucleatum and Pseudomonas aeruginosa identified in association with oral squamous cell carcinoma. Scientific Reports 2017, 7: 1834

Perera M, Al-hebshi NN, Speicher DJ, Perera I, Johnson NW. Emerging role of bacteria in oral cancer: a review with special reference to perio-pathogenic bacteria. Journal of Oral Microbiology 2016, 8: 32762.

Al-hebshi NN, Alharbi FA, Mahri M, Chen T. Differences in the bacteriome of smokeless tobacco products with different oral carcinogenicity: compositional and predicted functional analysis. Genes 2017, 8: 106

Al-hebshi NN, Nasher AT, Speicher DJ, Shaikh MH, Johnson NW. Possible interaction between tobacco use and EBV in oral squamous cell carcinoma. Oral Oncology 2016;59(8):e4-e5.

Al-hebshi NN, Li S, Nasher AT, El-Setouhy M, Alsanosi R, Blancato J, et al. Exome sequencing of oral squamous cell carcinoma in users of Arabian snuff reveals novel candidates for driver genes. International Journal of Cancer. 2016;139(2):363-72.

Nasher AT, Al-hebshi NN, Al-Moayad EE, Suleiman AM. Viral infection and oral habits as risk factors for oral squamous cell carcinoma in Yemen: a case-control study. Oral surgery, oral medicine, oral pathology and oral radiology. 2014;118(5):566-72.

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