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UAE Genome Program Set to Revolutionize Medical Care for Emiratis

In a groundbreaking initiative, the UAE's Emirati Genome Programme aims to decode the genetic profiles of one million Emiratis to revolutionize healthcare and advance treatments for rare and chronic diseases. Spearheaded by Mohamed Al Ameri, head of studies and special projects at Abu Dhabi's Department of Health, the program has already collected over 600,000 blood samples and DNA swabs from citizens across the Emirates.

The ambitious project, launched in Abu Dhabi in 2019 and expanded nationwide, seeks to create a comprehensive genetic database specific to the region's ethnic background. Al Ameri emphasizes the importance of this localized approach, citing that 90% of genomic studies worldwide focus on European backgrounds, leaving a significant gap in Arab genomic data.

The primary goal is to enhance healthcare strategies by providing tailored treatments and preventive measures based on individuals' genetic predispositions. This personalized approach aims to improve diagnosis accuracy, predict and prevent genetic diseases, and facilitate the development of new therapies.

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Genome sequencing under the program will enable the identification of genetic factors contributing to various conditions, including hereditary cancers like those linked to BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. The initiative also includes a premarital screening program to identify genetic risks early, emphasizing the UAE's proactive stance on public health.

Under the guidance of the Emirates Genome Council, chaired by Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the program has already yielded significant findings, identifying over five million novel gene variants from 50,000 genetic samples. This data promises to deepen understanding of local genetic profiles and their associations with diseases, potentially leading to transformative advancements in medical research and pharmacogenomics.

Recently endorsed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the program aims for broader community participation and collaboration to achieve its ambitious goal of one million genetic profiles. Emiratis are encouraged to participate voluntarily, with samples collected at various healthcare centers and select malls across the country under strict confidentiality protocols.

The program's partnership with health technology company M42 further enhances data exchange capabilities, ensuring robust health information management and innovative healthcare solutions for future generations. Dr. Ahmad Al Awadhi from M42 underscores the societal benefits, envisioning a healthier Emirati society and applauding the UAE's leadership in genomic research and public health initiatives.

June 28, 2024 4:04 p.m. 406

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