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Dubai cop heads project to study Arab genome diversity
Major Mohamed Ali Al Marri is determined to bridge the gap in global human genome research by studying samples from Arabia.
The police are not only fighting crimes: An officer from Dubai proves that they can lead scientific breakthroughs, too. Major Mohamed Ali Al Marri of the Dubai Police is heading a new project to study the Arab genome diversity.
Maj Al Marri, currently a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, has joined international efforts to understand the countless variations in people's genes. He and his fellow researchers have already published two papers on the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP), which were featured in two scientific journals.
The HGDP has been studied by numerous scientists over the last 30 years - but, the thing is, this grand genome research didn't have samples from Arabia. "There is currently a huge bias in the field of human genomics, with most studies performed in populations of European descent," Al Marri said.
Determined to bridge this gap, he and his team worked hard to take the study to a higher level. "In the two papers we published, we present the most detailed analysis of human genetic diversity by looking into a high-coverage dataset of almost 1,000 samples from 54 global populations," he said.
During the process, they found "millions of previously unidentified gene variants". Some were exclusive to one region, while others were detected in an individual population, he added.
With their work, genetic diversity is now recorded at a wider, more inclusive scale, which can be a game-changer in future medical studies.
This success, however, was just the beginning for Maj Al Marri. "The experience I gained from the HGDP study - from the analysis of the data to writing the manuscript, and the lack of Arabian samples - inspired me to start the Arab Genome Project."
With the HGDP and Al Marri's Arab Genome Project combined, the world could have a comprehensive encyclopedia of human genetic variation that will lead to the creation of better tests for human identification in forensics, the officer said.
"It will also advance the long-term goal of personalised medicine, where tailored treatments for each patient is based on their genetic background, improving outcomes and prognosis." he added.
Maj Al Marri, who completed his studies under the Dubai Police scholarship programme, expressed his appreciation and gratitude to the force for giving him and his colleagues a chance to become students at some of the most prestigious universities in the world.
Brig Dr Saleh Abdullah Murad, director of the General Department of Human Resources at the Dubai Police, said Maj Al Marri's success is a representation of the scientific capabilities of the emirate's police force.
"We encourage them to engage in research studies in order to stay abreast of the latest scientific discoveries in all fields and employ them efficiently in their works," Brig Murad said,
Over 1,000 scholarships
By providing a number of scholarships, the Dubai Police have been supporting Emirati talents in their journey as university and college students.
Lt-Col Dr Mansour Al Balushi, director of the Scholarship and Recruitment Department, said there are currently 165 full-time students under the Dubai Police scholarships. Forty-five of them are PhD candidates; 28 are MA students; and 92 are pursuing bachelor's degrees.
"We have sponsored around 1,034 students in their studies so far," Lt-Col Al Balushi said.
"The Scholarship and Recruitment Department provides its scholarship students with EFAAD, a smart service, to attend to their needs around the clock. It also formed Dubai Police Scholars Council to invest in their abilities to support them and create an innovative environment that allows them to foresee the future of security in Dubai," he added.
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