Doc­tors in UAE closely watch­ing de­vel­op­ments

Ther­apy may be some years away from be­ing in­tro­duced in the coun­try, ex­pert says

Gulf News - - FROM THE COVER - BY SAMI ZAATARI

There was more good news re­cently on the po­ten­tial of gene ther­apy af­ter doc­tors in the US cured 15 pa­tients with a fatal ge­netic brain disease by us­ing gene ther­apy. De­spite the suc­cess, don’t ex­pect to see gene ther­apy be­ing used in UAE hospi­tals any­time soon, as doc­tors con­tinue to as­sess its long-term vi­a­bil­ity and safety.

“It is a very del­i­cate process to per­form gene ther­apy, you need to have a very good in­fra­struc­ture in place, this in­cludes hav­ing the spe­cial­ists, the lab­o­ra­to­ries, and fa­cil­i­ties,” said Dr Fady Ge­orges Hachem, who spe­cialises in ob­stet­rics and gy­nae­col­ogy at Bur­jeel Hos­pi­tal.

Dr Hachem ac­knowl­edged the risks associated with the pro­ce­dure.

“The virus is the best way to in­tro­duce the gene into the body be­cause it has a high ac­tiv­ity of repli­ca­tion of the gene that you are in­tro­duc­ing, but the com­pli­ca­tion and pos­si­ble side ef­fect is that you don’t know if the virus will have a mu­ta­tion and cre­ate a new disease, so we have to study this fac­tor and see the re­sults on the trial pa­tients over time,” he added.

“The good news is that there have been suc­cess­ful tri­als, for ex­am­ple with some forms of neu­ro­mus­cu­lar dis­eases, so progress is be­ing made and I do think gene ther­apy will even­tu­ally be in­tro­duced to the mar­ket one day,” he said.

Ex­actly how long could it be be­fore it does get in­tro­duced?

Dr Hachem said he be­lieved that it would be within the next 10 years.

“I think that maybe in 5 years, max­i­mum 10, we will start to see gene ther­apy be­ing used,” he said.

“A lot of it is also down to the ad­vance­ment of tech­nol­ogy, we are able to do things to­day as doc­tors that we couldn’t 10 or 15 years ago, I fol­low a lot of the med­i­cal pub­li­ca­tions and re­ally every month there is al­ways some­thing new hap­pen­ing in a pos­i­tive way,” he added.

Dr Hachem said that he was also con­fi­dent in the UAE’s ca­pac­ity to carry out gene ther­apy when it even­tu­ally gets in­tro­duced to the hospi­tals.

“I think we are best placed for it, gene ther­apy re­quires the tech­nol­ogy, hu­man re­sources, and money, and if you look at the med­i­cal sec­tor in the UAE we have all of that.”

“The UAE is very well placed to be an in­no­va­tor in this field,” he added.

Dr Fady G. Hachem

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