Arab genetic risk factors revealed through new study

The Qatar Foundation has published a pivotal report, following the first genetic association study focused on the Middle East. Published in Nature Communications, the team’s paper “Whole genome sequencing in the Middle Eastern Qatari population identifies genetic associations with 45 clinically relevant traits” illuminates the specific genetic risks inherent within the Arab population. 

Clinical laboratory tests remain the mainstay of decision making in medicine, but despite the rapid advances in genomic technologies, it’s still not possible to make informed decisions, based on a patient’s genetic makeup. Qatar’s national genomic project was one of the first in the Middle East to compare genomic sequence data with the Qatar Biobank which describes clinical data, making hitherto impossible connections between genetics and medical outcomes. This latest study aligned whole genome data from over 6000 individuals and 45 clinical traits to identify some 300 markers of medical risk that were clustered within the Qatari population (with comparisons also made with European, other African, and Japanese populations, with lower correlations)

One of the research team, Dr Omar Albagha, said: “The study provides new insights into the genetic architecture of clinical laboratory tests and identifies for the first time the genetic variations that are specific to the population of Qatar. The study also shows that findings from genetic studies in European populations don’t translate well when applied to our population in the Middle East. We are excited because the study represents a foundation for the implementation of precision medicine in the Middle East.”

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