The Dubai Health Authority and the Imagine Institute of Genetic Diseases in France would collaborate on genetic research and education to better treat genetic disorders in the United Arab Emirates.
Arab countries have a high number of genetic and congenital disorders due to a number of factors, including homogeneous populations, large families, and high rates of consanguineous marriages - as much as 60%, according to one study.
At least 100 automatism recessive and 10 autosomal dominant disorders have been identified, including:
- Hearing disorders
- Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency
- Autosomal recessive syndromes
- Several metabolic disorders
- Down syndrome
To address the need for better awareness, treatment and research of these genetic conditions, countries like the United Arab Emirates have started a number of projects.
For instance, in Dubai, the Catalogue for Transmission Genetics in Arabs (CTGA) database at the Centre for Arab Genomic Studies (CAGS) uses big data to compile more than 1,600 records of genetic disorders in the region.
Dubai is also partnering with foreign experts to analyze all these data. Recently, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) signed an agreement with Paris, France-based Imagine Institute to collaborate on genetic research and education, and the two parties are expected to
“promote the advancement of science, technology and human learning through the undertaking of cooperative research on topics of mutual interest and expertise.”
Delegates from the institute visited DHA's Thalassemia Centre, the UAE’s sole world-class dedicated treatment center for thalassemic patients, and the metabolic genetics unit, molecular genetics unit, and molecular cytogenetic unit at the Dubai Genomics Centre and the Dubai Cord Blood and Research Centre of the DHA, according to a report from the Emirates News Agency.
“Genetics is an important field of health care and this agreement facilitates the exchange of faculty and visiting scholars to participate in teaching research and service programmes as we believe continuous medical education in this field is important to advance prevention, treatment and early detection of genetic disorders,”
said Engineer Eisa Al Maidour, Director-General of DHA, who signed the agreement of cooperation with Professor Guillaume Huart, Secretary-General of Imagine.
According to its website, Imagine aims to cure genetic diseases through “multidisciplinary collaborative research” and sharing “scientific progress” as well as educating “tomorrow’s talent in the culture of research.”
It states one of its main goals is to “develop new diagnosis and treatments” of genetic disorders.
In its LinkedIn profile, the Imagine institute described itself as a
“translational research institute which performs state-of-the-art research in order to better understand genetic diseases.” It also touts “cutting-edge technological platforms and clinical facilities.”
These statements by Imagine is consistent with Dubai and the UAE’s goal of raising awareness and designing treatments for genetic disorders which collectively is the fourth-highest cause of death in the UAE, and which place the country 6th among 193 nations with the highest number of genetically-linked birth defects, according to the Ministry of Health.
Aside from signing research agreements, the UAE has been active in enlisting the help of genetic researchers from around the world by setting up a conference in Dubai sponsored by the UAE Genetic Diseases Association (GDA) to share knowledge and help address the growing public health problem of genetic conditions in the country.
For now the government is taking the lead in genetic research, education and treatment through the use of big data to compile data, and through mHealth strategies to reach out to families to:
- Raise awareness
- Encourage genetic counselling
- Prevent birth defects
In the near future, individuals and families themselves could also utilize personal genomics to avoid the risk of having children with congenital disorders.
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