15 genetic triggers linked to birth defects in UAE found

Dr-Bassam-Ali20th November 2009 Dubai – 15 genetic triggers have been discovered in the UAE population that cause various disorders including birth defects this was stated at the by Dr. Bassam Ali associate professor of molecular and genetic medicine at the UAE University (UAEU), He called on health care providers to set up counselling and education programmes for the affected families.

He said the UAE is ranked sixth in the world for birth defects and said there is so far no preventive programme in place. “These people appear normal but have a defective gene and are known as carriers,”.

Dr. Bassam was speaking on the sidelines of a conference called Partners in Research, organised by Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research and Harvard Medical School, Dubai recently. Both are members of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Centre.

The scientist said mental retardation and birth defects are serious health problems in the country and also called for carrier screening and diagnostic tests on the families to evaluate the risk of acquiring such disorders. Dr Ali is researching on identifying the genetic cause of autism.

Dr-Ajay-K-SinghDr Ajay K. Singh, chief academic officer at the Harvard Medical School Centre, said there is a need to train researchers to move towards a knowledge-based economy. “There are tremendous opportunities to do more research [locally] but it is hindered by lack of infrastructure, funding and people,” he said.

The academic officer said major donors to the projects are His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and leading businessmen of the UAE, Saudi Arabia.

Robert J. Wheatley, director of resource development at Dubai Harvard Foundation, said the research is funded by the Foundation which has given out $350,000 (Dh1.2 million) per year. The projects will continue for five years, he said.

Dr Muhadditha Al Hasimi, acting CEO of Tatweer, who made the opening remarks at the conference, said, “This marks an important milestone in our plan to introduce new standards for health care services in the region.”