Qatar genome research to pave way for effective treatment of illnesses
November 15 2021 05:07 PM
Amal Elfatih
Amal Elfatih


* Qatar Genome Research Consortium research paves way for more promising treatment and prevention protocols in management of prevalent illnesses, particularly cancer and cardiovascular disease

A group of researchers at Qatar Foundation and Hamad Medical Corporation has released a study that highlights a total of 60 disease-causing genetic variants linked with cancer, heart diseases, high cholesterol level and other diseases, with cancer-associated variants being the most frequent – which is consistent with the high prevalence of cancer in the Qatari population.

The study, titled “Actionable genomic variants in 6,045 participants from the Qatar Genome Program”, highlighted that 2.3 percent of the Qatari individuals with whole genome sequence data carried a pathogenic (meaning disease causing) or likely pathogenic variant in one of the 59 genes identified as medically actionable. Many of these genes are related to inherited forms of cancer and heart conditions.

The ability to identify and to return secondary findings with potentially lifesaving interventions is indispensable to help the patients, family members, and the clinicians to identify the best interventions and medical follow- up strategies.

Amal Elfatih, first author of the paper from Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) College of Health and Life Sciences, and a recipient of the Early Career Award from the European Society of Human Genetics, said: “The study identified deleterious mutations that would result in specific medical recommendations. These medical recommendations, when implemented, can improve the participants’ and their relative health conditions by avoiding or improving the outcomes of the associated disease.

“The study also shows the significant association between the clinical data and the genotype in identifying additional not pathogenic genetic variations. This study argues the possibility of identifying novel genetic mutations with actionable clinical implications specific to the Arabic population.”

The study was led by researchers at HBKU and Qatar Genome Programme – part of QF Research, Development and Innovation – along with scientists from Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), and includes over 6,000 Qatari individuals with whole genome sequence data.
The group reported the largest and most comprehensive analysis to study medically actionable variants in the Arab population of the Middle East, which is mostly uncharacterized due to the lack of large population-based genomic data from the Middle East. The paper has been published online in Human Mutation and has been selected as an Editor’s Choice article at Human Mutation – a leading peer reviewed scientific journal. This work has been also presented at the European Human Genetics conference held online this week.
“We are excited because the study represents a foundation for the implementation of precision medicine in Qatar and in the region,” said Hamdi Mbarek, co-author on the study and Research Partnerships Manager at Qatar Genome Programme (QGP).

Professor Asma Al Thani, Chairperson of QGP and the Vice Chairperson of Qatar Biobank, said: “This is an excellent example showing the impact of utilizing genomic data, and we have various collaborations with our partners in the pipeline, this study has come timely.”

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