DOHA, QATAR — A new study can help with future research into the genetic risk factors that are specific to the Arab population, including those that are shared with other ethnicities.
A group of researchers at the Qatar Foundation (QF) have reported the first and largest genetic association study in the Middle East, published online in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications. The study identifies genetic associations with 45 clinically relevant traits in the Qatari population.
The study is titled “Whole genome sequencing in the Middle Eastern Qatari population identifies genetic associations with 45 clinically relevant traits.”
The research confirms that the existing global dataset of human genomes, which overrepresent European populations, does not accurately reveal the genetic architecture of diseases affecting Arab populations in the Middle East. The study serves as a foundation for implementing precision medicine in the region.
These kind of studies can be considered as experiments conducted by nature, where the natural variation found in the genomes of thousands of Qataris is linked to variations in their respective blood tests. The results from this project are shared publicly, ensuring that the specificities of the Arab genomes will be taken into consideration in future research on new treatments and therapies.
Dr. Omar Albagha, professor of genomic and precision medicine at the Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s College of Health and Life Sciences, said the study has important implications.
“The study provides new insights into the genetic architecture of clinical laboratory tests and identifies for the first time genetic variations that are specific to the population of Qatar,” Albagha said. “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. This argues for further studies to define the genetic architecture of diseases in our region. We are excited because the study represents a foundation for the implementation of precision medicine in the Middle East.”
By performing detailed assessments of genetic variants across the whole genome in 6,218 individuals, comprising data from 45 clinically relevant traits, the study identified about 300 independent genetic signals. Some of these signals were predominantly found in the Qatari population. This observation was then confirmed in a further 7,768 subjects from QF’s Qatar Biobank.
The study was led by researchers at QF’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University and QF’s partner university, Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q), along with other scientists from the Qatar Genome Research Consortium.