Dubai: An officer from Dubai Police has joined international efforts to understand human genetic diversity and published the most comprehensive atlas of genetic variation to date by analysing a globally diverse set of populations as part of the renowned Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP).
Major Mohamed Ali Al Marri, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, and his fellow researchers, in cooperation with Cambridge and Harvard Universities, have published two papers on HGDP that have been featured in two high-impact scholarly journals: ‘Science’ and ‘Cell’.
Al Marri is also heading a new project to study Arab Genome Diversity as part of his PhD programme. He along with his team has identified a large number of variants that are specific to the region and highlight the missing diversity of Arab samples in genome projects. This new project will complement the HGDP, which lacks samples from the Arabian Peninsula, ensuring that the region is not excluded in the field of personalised medicine which has the potential to exacerbate healthcare disparities.
Studying at prestigious universities
Al Marri, who completed his studies under the Dubai Police scholarship programme, expressed his appreciation for and gratitude towards the force for giving him and his colleagues a chance to study at some of the most prestigious universities in the world.
“In the two papers we published, we presented the most detailed analysis of human genetic diversity by analysing a high-coverage dataset of almost 1,000 samples from 54 global populations. We found millions of previously unidentified variants, some of which were unique to one region, and in some cases unique to a particular population. There is currently a huge bias in the field of human genomics, with most studies performed in populations of European descent. Our studies now catalogue genetic variants at a global scale, allowing their inclusion in future medical studies,” said Al Marri.
‘Better tests for human identification’
“The results of both these projects will enable us to create an encyclopaedia of human genetic variation that will allow us to create better tests for human identification in the field of forensics. It will also advance the long-term goal of personalized medicine, where tailored treatments for each patient is based on their genetic background, improving outcomes and prognosis,” he added.
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Brigadier Dr Saleh Abdullah Murad, Director at the General Department of Human Resources at Dubai Police, said that Al Marri’s success is a representation of the scientific capabilities of Dubai Police Cadre.
Lt Col Dr Mansour Al Balushi, Director at the Scholarship and Recruitment Department, said that there are currently 165 full-time students enrolled under Dubai Police’s scholarship programmes — 45 of them are PhD candidates, 28 are in Masters programmes, while another 92 are in Bachelor of Arts studies.