Screening for new gene mutations in children soon

UAE Genetic Diseases Association and Khalifa University identify four new mutations related to Type 2 diabetes among UAE population


Babies in the UAE older than six months could soon start being screened for newly-discovered genetic mutations that increase their risk of developing diabetes later, an Emirati geneticist said on Monday.

Dr Maryam Matar, founder and chairperson of UAE Genetic Diseases Association, said her non-profit organisation, working with the Khalifa University, was able to identify four new mutations related to Type 2 diabetes in the UAE population.

“Now, with this discovery, we will be able to very soon screen all the newborns above six months old to see if they carry that mutation, because that will increase the risk to develop Type 2 diabetes when they are above 30,” Dr Matar said.

Her comments came during her talk at Crescent Enterprises’ MedTech Symposium in Dubai on Monday.

She said the screening will enable “empowering” of cases tested positive with the “right information on how to have a healthy lifestyle, how to avoid being overweight, how to avoid all those stressful key points”.

The comments were made against the backdrop of her remarks that focus and investment in preventive healthcare is lagging behind curative treatment in the UAE, especially in the field of genetics and rare diseases.

“Nobody can deny that the future is genetics. In many clinics now, people are treated for their blood-sugar or hypertension as per their genotype, not just on only one parameter. They go back to the genotype of that individual to issue the right type of medication.”

On Monday, UAE-based conglomerate Crescent Enterprises hosted the symposium under the theme ‘Enabling Innovation, Enhancing Impact’ to explore emerging opportunities in healthcare innovation and medical devices.

The event drew the participation of more than 100 attendees, including prominent industry professionals, academics, investors and policymakers.

Welcoming the participants, Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises, said: “The recent widespread adoption of disruptive technology in healthcare is enabling breakthroughs in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, benefiting millions of people worldwide. The Middle East is set to be a major beneficiary of these technological advancements, as we continue to witness fast-paced population growth, and the consequent urgency to develop world-class healthcare systems. These innovations are also critical to putting our region on the map as brand-creators rather than brand-adopters.”

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