DISCUSSIONS on new studies and advancements in treating genetic diseases were held in Bahrain.
The Human Genetics, Epigenetics and Personalised Genomics Conference was held yesterday under the patronage of Supreme Council for Health president Dr Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.
It was organised by the Arab Association for Genetic Research in partnership with Princess Al Jawhara Centre for Molecular Medicine and Genetics and the Arabian Gulf University (AGU).
Around 150 specialists in the field from around the world attended the event, which was held at the Sheraton Bahrain Hotel.
“New studies have shown that dietary patterns affect the structure of the human genome and the evolution of new diseases as environmental and electronic pollution,” said Al Jawhara chief executive director and AGU molecular medicine chairman Professor Moiz Bakhiet.
“There are particular diet systems that just stimulate hereditary mutations through the production of proteins that contribute to numerous diseases.
“This is why newborns have to be checked to ensure that they don’t suffer from hereditary mutations in future and enable us to intervene to come up with particular cures for each case, while understanding what those newborns should or shouldn’t be given as diet.
“For the hereditary diseases common here in Bahrain like sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia there are new methods to isolate sick genes from healthy ones to ensure that carriers wishing to marry don’t get sick babies with the percentage of them doing so being 25 per cent in normal cases.”
Ibn Al Nafees Hospital Janeen Fertility and Genetic Centre director Dr Shaikha Al Arrayed said Bahrain was registering an annual of 40 to 50 newborns with sickle cell.
“We have managed to drop the numbers from around 200 newborns a decade ago to 40 to 50 a year, but again we have to further work on reductions through numerous approaches, mainly awareness on marriages within a closed circuit,” she said.
“New technologies have been developed but they are not highly effective when it comes to hereditary diseases in general since the genetic pattern tends to remain, despite us working on variances.
“The percentage of sickle cell positive was around 14pc of the Bahraini population when it was just the Health Ministry’s statistics two to three years ago, but now we have to look at private hospitals and expatriates, and (according to) rough statistics numbers are going downwards.”
Also present at the event were Dr Shaikh Mohammed and AGU president Dr Khalid Al Ohaly among foreign ambassadors and health professionals.