Saudi Arabia’s ambitious genome mapping project

Developing the medical field in a country like Saudi Arabia and other countries is a vital issue

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Health is people’s concern everywhere, and it’s almost the number one issue in all societies. And now, there’s a governmental project in Saudi Arabia that is “theoretically” supposed to be one of the most influential on the future of millions of people. The genome project aims to provide a genetic database for the country’s population of 24 million and for the newly-born in the future. It’s an ambitious project, and it’s early to judge.

The healthcare project is based on collecting all citizens’ genetic data in order use it in the medical and diagnostic field for many diseases like those of the heart, diabetes and cancer, according to King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. Knowing the human’s DNA sequencing for medical reasons is more important for our country than nuclear arms projects and the huge cement projects which we spend most our revenues on.

Genetic map

The Human Genome Project we are talking about aims to enable medical institutions to closely understand diseases and establish a healthcare project that helps draw a map of genetic disorders. This genetic map will help get people an early treatment of diseases, like heart diseases, diabetes and cancer, which represent modern and future challenges for society. Its importance is that “it develops diagnostic tests to become quick, accurate and cheaper. [An example of these tests] is knowing whether one has a genetic readiness to get diabetes. [If positive,] an early intervention is carried out by resorting to special treatment as a precautionary measure,” London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat said in a report.

Developing the medical field in a country like Saudi Arabia and other countries is a vital issue

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

In this context, we wonder if most medical institutions like the health ministry and research institutions will be participating with or be linked to the Genome project, which is supposed to eventually establish a database for millions of people and thus help them obtain preventive care.

Developing the medical field in a country like Saudi Arabia and other countries is a vital issue that is supposed to be on the top list of the state’s priorities. There are only about 10 percent of Saudis in the public and private medical sector although a medical career is an honorable and respectable one and is almost the fastest growing in the kingdom. Those who work in the field of medicine usually elevate the health of their family and society.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 25, 2014.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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