An understanding of the genetic diversity in the region will provide an insight into mechanisms that cause lead to the disease. These developments could lead to improved intervention and prevention programs ultimately improving the quality of life throughout Arab nations.
At a prevalence rate close to 25%, the UAE has one of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in the world, instigating huge societal costs, not only in terms of morbidity and mortality, but also in lost productivity and an immense burden on the healthcare system. Diabetic neuropathy, the main complication of diabetes, affects the heart, kidney and peripheral nerves and significantly increases the risk of heart attack, kidney failure and amputation, resulting in both significant life and limb loss. Pharmacological treatment is the preferred treatment for diabetes and associated complications. However, the effectiveness of existing medication is controversial and requires a better understanding of the genetic, metabolic and physiological basis of diabetes, as well as the diabetic neuropathy to improve drug delivery and treatment outcomes. Currently, there is no unified model of diabetic neuropathy based on identified genes specific to the Emirati population, which not only leads to an increased risk of diabetes and associated neuropathy but also influences treatment effectiveness. Microbubble drug delivery systems, currently under development, promise to provide better-individualized drug delivery to specific organs and hence better treatment outcomes. In line with the Abu Dhabi 2030 plan and Khalifa University mission of research and community service excellence, our project aims to combine new technologies for identifying target-disease associations starting with the genetic basis and finalizing with enhanced drug delivery and drug candidates by applying genetic-metabolic modeling and data mining to gain a better understanding of the pathophysiology involved in diabetic neuropathy. Our underlying goal is to develop a holistic UAE population-specific model of the disease process along with better drug delivery system that targets specific organs to enhance individualized preventative health care in the UAE.
Funding: KUIRF L2
The Identification of Genetic Markers that Predispose Individuals of Middle Eastern Descent to Substance Abuse Disorder
There are a range of important genetic differences when comparing patients with substance use disorders and other psychiatric related disorders from different ethnic backgrounds. However, there are a limited number of studies conducted on subjects from the Middle Eastern regions and susceptibility factors are less clear. Our recent work on a cohort of substance dependent patients from Jordan, the first among patients of Arab descent, have revealed genetic markers that may be used to improve the prognosis of treatment regimens. This project was conceived to independently replicate the Jordanian study in another cohort of patients of Arab descent. Specifically, patients who have been diagnosed with a dependency on alcohol; heroin; prescription drugs or polysubstance dependence) based on international standards (such as the DSM-IV criteria) will be recruited from UAE’s Drug Rehabilitation program. Genomic DNA will first be extracted from saliva samples of each participant, subsequently screened with the most recent version of Illumina’s high-density DNA array, and finally analyzed using the relevant statistical and bioinformatics analysis tools. Except for subject recruitment, saliva collection, and shipping; the genetic laboratory at KUSTAR will be responsible for all other work including DNA analysis and the analysis of the data. This study aims to identify alleles of genes that play a role in substance abuse. This knowledge is significant in light of recent studies showing the ability to customize treatment regimens for patients on the basis of their genetic background to improve the outcome of intervention.
People: Dr. Habiba Al Safar, Dr. Ahmed El-Kashef, Dr. Guan Tay, Dr. Laith AL-Eitan and Dr. Gary Hulse, Hiba Alblooshi
Funding: National Rehabilitation Center