Gene breakthrough spells good news for diabetics

ABU DHABI - There's good news for diabetic patients. A breakthrough in the genetic revolution has made insulin available at affordable price, an expert known for his cutting-edge research in genome science said on Tuesday.

By Nada S. Mussallam

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Published: Wed 14 Apr 2004, 12:25 PM

Last updated: Mon 25 Mar 2024, 1:14 PM

"Following the successful isolation of a gene from the pancreas that produces insulin, a door has been opened for the manufacture of an effective treatment for this chronic disease," said Dr Abdul Hameed Khan, Head of the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, US in an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times on Tuesday.

He said that the scientific breakthrough was made during the first phase of a $3 billion human genome project, undertaken by scientists at NIH over the past 13 years and completed two years ahead of target, in April 2003.

The Hyderbad-born Dr Khan, was on a short visit to the country at the invitation of the Indian Pharmaceutical Forum (IPF), to deliver a lecture on the 'Upcoming genetic revolution and the impact of human genome project on the future of health care and herbal medicine'.

The expert was involved in synthesising several drugs whose screening showed that they have the ability to shut off a variety of genes that cause cancer.

Dr Khan recommended that having diabetes mellitus as a significant cause of mortality in the UAE, the country should, under technology transfer programme conclude legal negotiations with the US government, to avail of the scientific achievement and start manufacturing its own drug.

"Facilities are available in the UAE in big scale and high quality, to manufacture insulin, which I believe has become an important requirement for medical for the population", said Dr Khan.

According to recent statistics, diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in the UAE affecting over 24 per cent of the adult population in the country.

Concerning efforts of NIH to decipher genetic codes, Dr Khan said the second phase of the project, which has already commenced will focus on finding a diagnostic test using genes to detect diseases, which unborn children will be vulnerable to develop.

"In the second phase, which requires the support of all the 200 countries of the world, scientists will embark on creating biological machines, to clean up the environment, produce new kinds of food, help cleaner fuels and produce new forms of medicines," he said.

However, he said, each and every country should have its own guidelines and code of ethics, apart from that of the US to accordingly tackle the issues pertaining to genetic engineering.

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