Khalifa University study on UAE genetics pool concludes - GulfToday

Khalifa University study on UAE genetics pool concludes


The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

A three-year Khalifa University (Abu Dhabi) study has revealed that the genetics pool of the Emirati population is highly complex and highly diversified.

Also, Jordanian molecular biologist Prof. Rana Dajani, among the leading influential personalities in the Arab World, encourages not only the value of reading among the youth but also inspires them to seriously consider deep interest and more importantly involvement in field of science as this, particularly natural sciences, are into the physical nature of life.

Moreover, Lebanese biologist/geneticist Lebanese Dr. Pierre Zalloua, noted for his participation at the National Geographic Society’s “Genographic Project,” has said more research has to be done in order to de-construct the genes affecting and effecting the complex disease of diabetes because what has been known “is only a fraction” and specific research has to be endeavoured most especially among “sub-populations.”

These and more are from the “8th Pan-Arab Human Genetics Conference” which formally opened at the Roda Al Bustan Hotel in Dubai on Sunday.

Organised by the Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Awards for Medical Sciences, the conference which began with clinical symposia and lectures on Jan. 17 has five conference themes: Next Generation Sequencing, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Metabolic Disorders, Dysmorphology (Birth Defects), and Population Genomics and Diseases.

On Sunday, it was in the “Population Genomics and Diseases” module that Khalifa University (Abu Dhabi) associate professor Dr. Andreas Henschel discussed the three-year study on genetics pool of the UAE population participated in by 1,000 Emiratis beginning 2017.

In the same module, Zalloua, of the American University (Lebanon) and Harvard School of Public Health, discussed the conclusions of the “Diabetes Gene-Environment Interaction” study he had co-researched and co-authored with fellow scientists.

The requirement for the study on the Emirati genetics pool alongside those of the other Arab ethnicities had been talked about since several years back due to the lack of research.

On Sunday, Henschel, into the field of Bioinformation (the combination of biology, computer science, information engineering, mathematics and statistics to analyse and interpret biological data), presented the “Annotation and Visualization of the UAE-Specific Variome.”

He stated: “The UAE and GCC genomics (remained) to be under studied.”

Henschel told Gulf Today the study is part of the “1,000 Arab Genome Project, subjected to “quality controlled analyses.”

The conclusions:

  There are 46,000 genetic variants (responsible for diseases and which could also be used for anthropological studies) specific to the Emiratis.

  The first-ever genomics sequencing used in the study has exhibited that the genetics pool of the Emiratis is complex and has high levels of diversity, “strongly influenced by Asians and Africans, and a little bit of Europeans and North Africans.”

  The Emiratis genetics pool is “heterogeneous” as opposed to the belief that it is “homogeneous.”

Henschel said the research findings are helpful especially in the field of Personalized Medicine.

Dajani, also a visiting professor at the University of Richmond (Virginia, USA), was interviewed ahead of her 6 p.m. public lecture on “To See What Everyone Sees But Think What No One Has Thought,” her personal journey as an Arab lady scientist in the past 15 years that aims to inspire future generations of Arab scientists.

Dajani became a molecular biologist because of her desire to give her share on how to “prevent diseases and provide therapeutic solutions.”

The Society for the Advancement of Science and Technology in the Arab World president who is also the person behind the “We Love Reading” programme focusing on the youth, said that while it is true that genes unceasingly mutate, everyone must keep on reading from “authentic” sources and talk with “authentic” people, particularly “authentic” scientists.

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