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Omani scientist earns kudos for genetic thesis.

MUSCAT: An Omani scientist hopes his study on inherited blood disorders would create a novel strategy for the rapid diagnosis of complex diseases in Oman.

"This strategy could be replicated in neighbouring countries in the Gulf region that have similar problems with hereditary blood disorders," he has said.

Inherited blood disorders like Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassaemia are among the most prominent health concerns in the Sultanate as studies indicate that almost 60 per cent of Omanis are carriers of one or multiple genes of inherited blood disorders.

Dr. Shoaib Al Zadjali, a senior biomedical scientist at the Department of Haematology at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, who is specialised in diagnosing inherited blood disorders using molecular genetic techniques, has been awarded a doctorate degree with honours from a reputed research institute based in Paris, France.

His PhD thesis discussed the genetic analysis of inherited blood disorders in Oman to achieve high level of accuracy in the diagnosis of these disorders with simplified and advanced techniques of genetic analysis ensuring rapid completion of laboratory testing of patients.

The conventional method for diagnosing blood disorders is phenotypic analysis, which is time consuming and can be misleading, particularly in a place like Oman, where many genes are interacting together.

According to Dr. Shoaib, the phenotypic analysis is not sufficient to yield accurate results in all cases. His study has resulted in innovative research strategies for accurate and simplified analyses of genetic blood disorders for the first time globally, especially for alpha thalassaemia.

The findings were documented in five research papers published in international journals.

Dr Shoaib received his PhD degree from the High Applied School in Paris. This is a first at the French research institute, as Shoaib is the first Omani student to receive a doctoral degree with honours.

Dr. Shoaib's PhD thesis was based on the findings of a research project undertaken by Dr. Salam Alkindi, Head of the Department of Haematology at SQU.

With support from His Majesty's Strategic Research Fund for the year 2005-2007, Dr. Salam Alkindi and team did a research titled 'Newborn haemohlobinopathy carrier screening: towards comprehensive and improved patient care of patients with sickle cell disease in Oman'.

The study demonstrated that series hereditary blood disorders (such as beta thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Disease) were prevalent in approximately 10 per cent of the newborn Omani babies.

Around 50 per cent of the newborns were diagnosed with alpha thalassaemia and these ratios did not vary from another study conducted among school children in 1995 by the Ministry of Health.

According to Dr. Zadjali, the high prevalence of inherited blood disorders is an indication of lack of awareness programmes in this area and lack of advanced diagnostic procedures.

This is what motivated him to carry out further studies in association with the French institute.

The aim of his PhD thesis was to confirm these hereditary blood diseases prevalence ratio using molecular genetics methods.

He used different genetic tests for the first time in Oman and identified tailor-made strategies for Oman on the basis of the nature and pattern of these diseases.

His work has contributed substantially towards ensuring accuracy in the diagnostic procedures and obtaining rapid results within a short period of time.

Dr. Zadjali, who started the molecular tests in the Haematology Department in 2004 after training from the Inserm Institute, Paris, is in charge of the Molecular Biology Laboratory.

He performs DNA fingerprinting and chimerism (a state in which a person has more than one set of DNA) studies in patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation (BMT) and monitoring studies following BMT.

He is also actively involved in project work involving patients with neonatal cord blood screening, thrombophilia screening, malignancy molecular diagnostics, and several immunodeficiency disorders aimed at defining the molecular profile of these congenital disorders.

Dr. Salam Alkindi was the local supervisor for Shoaib's PhD work. In France, he was supervised by Dr. Rajagopal Krishnamoorthy, Director of Research, Inserm Unit 763 at Robert Debre Hospital.

His thesis defence was held on November 18 this year which coincided with the 41st National Day of Oman. His thesis was titled 'Molecular Genetics of Haemoglobinopathies in Oman'.

Dr. Shoaib said that the prevalence of inherited blood diseases in Oman is quite different from other countries in the region. That is because of the admixture of population living in Oman, which therefore created novel models of diseases not found elsewhere, and requires a very careful attention in the diagnosis of such disorders.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2011

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:7OMAN
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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