Prof Najeeb Al Khaja opens the Genomics into Healthcare conference yesterday. The conference hopes to help bridge the gap between scientists in labs and clinicians in hospitals. Image Credit: Courtesy: Organiser

Dubai: Top international scientists are meeting in Dubai to help bring new treatments for the genetic diseases common in the UAE and the region.

A senior scientist said the focus of work is to predict what course the disease will take so doctors can either minimise the dosage of the drug or give alternative medicines.

Dr George Patrinos, scientific director of the Golden Helix Foundation, said the focus now is on personalised medicine. He said a wide range of medicines are being studied for oncology (cancers), psychiatric health and anti-coagulants (for cardio-vascular diseases).

He said the Foundation will expand its research activities to include knowledge transfer with the UAE that would benefit the population.

The three-day conference is organised by the Dubai-based Centre for Arab Genomic Studies (CAGS) in cooperation with Golden Helix Foundation.

Professor Najeeb Al Khaja, Secretary-General of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Medical Sciences and the president of the Centre for Arab Genomic Studies, opened the conference.

One of the scientific sessions, Genomics of Blood and Metabolic Disorders, included the genetics of inherited disorders of the blood.

In the UAE, prenatal diagnosis of inherited blood disorders has been available since 2005.

Dr Patrinos said there are some rare genetic diseases in the Emirati population. “The genetic background is much cleaner and easier to study,” he said. By cleaner genetic background he meant that there is a higher incidence of consanganuity (marriage among blood relatives) and that it is easier to identify the genetic variant that causes these diseases.

The scientists said the future of personalided medicine will have to take into account economic factors, data protection, ethical issues, and to make the people aware of genomics.

Some of the common genetic diseases in the UAE include hearing and vision loss, thalassaemia, sickle-cell disease and Down’s syndrome. The conference will help “bridge the gap” between the scientists in labs who are trying to find the causes of the diseases, and the clinicians in hospitals, said an official from CAGS. “This will result in a better outcome for patients and help ease the burden of these diseases on the patients and their families.”