Doctors in UAE closely watching developments
Therapy may be some years away from being introduced in the country, expert says
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