US-Qatar-MENA Collaborative Research Grant to fund research in infectious diseases

Qatar National Research Fund, (QNRF) a member of Qatar Foundation Research and Development, has teamed up with the US-based National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institute of Health (NIH) to cosponsor a joint-funding programme.

In partnership with CRDF Global, the 2014 US-Qatar-MENA Collaborative Research Grant Competition will support teams of leading scientists from Qatar, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the United States.

Their research projects will focus on one or more endemic and emerging viral infectious diseases affecting the MENA region including MERS, hepatitis C and E, influenza and HIV/AIDS among others. Awarded teams will receive up to US$40,000 to cover research costs over a one-year period.

Commenting on the importance of the joint-funding programme, QNRF’s Executive Director, Dr Abdul Sattar Al-Taie, said: “Our goal with this new joint-funding programme is to foster new biomedical research collaborations between leading researchers from Qatar, other MENA countries, and the United States.

“We want to bring the best minds of the world together to solve critical issues of direct relevance to the MENA region which will also add to global knowledge about endemic and emerging viral infectious diseases.”

The announcement of the collaboration was made at a recent QNRF-sponsored workshop entitled ‘The Endemic and Emerging Viral Diseases of Priority in the Middle East and North Africa,’ held in Doha.

International medical and public health experts and researchers from renowned global and regional institutions gathered for the four-day workshop, and are among those eligible for funding under the new programme.

They include scientists from The Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University in the United States, Toulouse University in France, and representatives from some of the MENA region’s leading institutions including Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the American University of Beirut, Tripoli Medical Centre in Libya, Cairo University in Egypt, and the University of Jordan.

Doris Duan-Young Autism Centre opens in DHCC

Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) recently announced the opening of Doris Duan- Young Autism Centre, a US$1 milliondollar plus facility, which can accommodate up to 100 adults and children. The Doris Duan-Young Autism Centre is a sister company to Behavioural Support Services, Inc. and Behavioral Support Services FZ LLC.

Opened by founder and best-selling author, Doris Duan-Young, the state-of-theart centre will provide early intervention, speech and behavioural therapy, and vocational training for adults and children with autism.

Having successfully helped over 25,000 families to cope with autism through her centre in Orlando in the United States, Duan-Young researched facilities for developmental disabilities in the Middle East, and found the region was in need of such a centre. The centre provides sensory rooms, theatre for imaginative play, a quiet room and space for group and single therapy, accommodating up to 100 adults and children.

Duan-Young, said: “We strive to lessen the challenges of autism and developmental disabilities and developmental delays. We tailor our services to provide an enriched environment complete with educational, cultural and recreational activities that promote growth, independence and social interaction.”

The CEIMC provides behavioural therapy, social therapy, communication, and academics to support inclusion of children with developmental delays in main stream schools and nurseries. It accepts children as young as 18 months.

18 new private hospitals being built in Dubai

Essa Al Maidoor, Director-General of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), speaking at an event to honour long-serving leaders of the DHA recently, said work on 18 new private hospitals was under way in Dubai emirate.

In a report in Khaleej Times, he said Dubai has a total of 25 hospitals (21 in the private sector and four in the government sector), 1,200 polyclinics and 580 pharmacies. He noted that there were 2,229 health facilities in the emirate, with more than 21,500 healthcare professionals (15,500 in the private sector and 6,000 in the public sector) employed in Dubai.

American Hospital Dubai performs innovative heart arrhythmia procedure

The American Hospital Dubai’s cardiac team presented a range of new heart procedures available in the UAE at a meeting hosted by the hospital’s ‘The Heart Center’ for more than 50 healthcare professionals in the UAE. These procedures offer new hope in treating very common health conditions – heart arrhythmia, Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA), and resistant hypertension – which can be life threatening and are now treatable through advanced minimal access surgery.

The new cardiac surgical procedure for heart arrhythmia – called ‘thoracoscopic atrial fibrillation ablation – involves burning heart tissue with a catheter to leave scar tissue that creates new pathways for electrical impulses, which restores the normal sequence of electrical impulses that trigger each heartbeat. The procedure is minimally invasive.

Speaking at the presentation Dr Nayzak Raoof, Chief Medical Officer, said: “The Heart Center … is one of a small, select group of medical centers worldwide, and among the few private healthcare institution in the region, capable of undertaking advanced interventional and surgical procedures, such as minimally invasive cardiac surgery and beating heart bypass surgery, state of the art heart valve repair and advanced aortic arch procedures.

“We are seeing the benefits of our multidisciplinary approach to cardiac care with these innovative procedures, and just as important is the fact that we are meeting international standards by ensuring that patients undergo revascularization within 90 minutes, which is saving lives.”

Sheikh Khalifa Medical City sets up state-of-the-art IV cleanroom

Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) in Abu Dhabi has implemented an open architecture smart cleanroom (IV room) with USP <797> and CETA compliant certification, believed to be the first of its kind in the Gulf.

Among other uses, the smart IV room will be used to prepare total parenteral nutrition (TPN), an intravenous administration of nutrition which can include protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals and electrolytes, vitamins and other trace elements for patients who cannot eat or absorb enough food through tube feeding formula to maintain good nutrition. Essentially, TPN is a way of supplying all the nutritional needs of the body by bypassing the digestive system and dripping nutrient solution directly into a vein.

While preparing TPNs, unique to each individual, the process must be carefully managed in a sterile environment to protect patient health and avoid infection, disability and even death. The smart IV room offers real time 24/7 communication with operators on the room status, cleanliness level, particle count and crucial environmental information such as temperature, relative humidity and differential pressure.

TPN’s prepared in a non USP <797> certified room are not recommended for use for more 24 hours but with this technology, the length of time extends up to seven days, according to Rafik Youssef, Pharmacy Manager at SKMC.

“Patients requiring Home-TPN are usually restricted in terms of mobility and being able to travel, because they must come back to the hospital every day. Now, with the smart IV room technology and sterility capabilities, Home-TPN patients can prolong that to seven days, giving them a sense of a freedom that they didn’t have before,” Youssef said.

Mother of two year old Emirati boy Hamed Al Mansoori, who has been a TPN patient all of his short life, applauded the Abu Dhabi-based flagship hospital for bringing world-class technology to residents: “We knew that this kind of service and technology existed internationally, and we are extremely happy to have access to it here in the UAE.”

Stem cell therapy raises hope for Gulf’s leukaemia patients

In one of the most remarkable breakthroughs in the fight against cancer, advances in stem cell transplants are resulting in lower mortality rates for children with leukaemia. According to the University of Chicago, significant improvements have been made in graft manipulation, donor selection, fine-tuning of conditioning regimens as well as new forms of immunosuppression after transplants.

The combined effect means fewer complications, higher recovery rates and greater anti-tumour effects of the stem cell grafts. This could sway more medical experts in the Gulf to recommend the revolutionary HSCT (Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation), which is now considered the most effective option for tackling leukaemia.

In order to give Gulf patients and doctors greater access to the latest cancer breakthroughs, Gulf Care International has brought one of the world’s most eminent researchers in childhood cancers specifically, and blood diseases as a whole. Dr John M Cunningham is Professor of Pediatrics, Physiology and Stem Cell Research at the University of Chicago, which collaborates with Gulf Care International to provide ultra-competitive medical care for Gulf patients in the US.

Doctors from the UAE and the wider region benefitted immensely from the research presented by Dr Cunningham at the recent Arab Pediatrics Congress in Dubai. Summarizing the insights he shared at the congress, Dr Cunningham said: “Even when a child with leukaemia has undergone stem cell grafts, that is only half the story – because some children tragically succumb to post-transplant complications. That’s why Gulf doctors are showing greater interest in revolutionary new disease-specific post-transplant therapies and donor lymphocyte infusions (DLIs). Some of these emerging concepts are still too complex for doctors to understand, let alone the parents and certainly not the children themselves. So we need greater synergies between the Gulf and US medical communities to accelerate skills transfer and information exchange.”

Dr Cunningham pointed out: “I strongly believe we are on the verge of greater progress in understanding cancer than we ever have at any point in human history. Knowledge is the best medicine, and solutions like tumour vaccines are already becoming a reality.”

WCMC-Q researchers involved with developing breakthrough metabolic map

A huge leap forward has been made by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) who have produced a comprehensive atlas identifying the genes that influence how the body keeps our blood levels of sugars, fats and amino acids in balance.

Dr. Karsten Suhre, professor of physiology and biophysics at WCMC-Q, worked with partners at institutions in Europe to create the map, which has recently been featured in Nature Genetics.

A total of 7,824 people took part in the study with the scientists determining 2.1 million genetic variants in each one of those study participants. The researchers then measured the levels of over 400 different small molecules, called metabolites, that are found in the blood of every person. The relation between metabolite levels and differences between every individual’s genes was recorded and, through statistical analysis, it was found that there are 145 genes that have a significant effect on the body’s metabolic capacities.

Dr. Suhre said: “Many of the 145 genes we identified are enzymes. Enzymes are there to produce the different metabolites – the sugars, fats and amino acids that are the building blocks the body needs. They also eliminate toxic substances and excess metabolites from our system. Genetically, everyone has these enzymes but no-one is identical in what concerns their genetic make-up, so we’re looking for differences in what an individual’s enzymes can do by generating a comprehensive picture of over 400 metabolites for every blood sample we measure.

Essentially, a single genetic difference in the way that an enzyme behaves may have positive or negative benefits for that individual. It may make them more prone to certain diseases or protect them from some illnesses by, for example, efficiently processing a certain vitamin or being unable to process it.

“This is an atlas of how everybody is metabolically different,” said Dr. Suhre. “We can now really understand the genetic part of human metabolism as a whole; that is a first. It has never been achieved to this level before.”

The research has been going on for several years at WCMC-Q with international collaborators, and Dr. Suhre said, the map is the culmination of that, providing an extremely valuable tool for scientists. The map shows the different pathways between genes, enzymes and metabolites, demonstrating that a drug used to target one gene may have several different effects and consequences on other pathways. Perhaps most importantly, it shows how human metabolism works as a system and how it can potentially be modified in order to counteract what a disease has done.

Dr. Suhre said: “To treat a disease, such as diabetes or cancer, if you want to change the levels of a certain metabolite, the map would tell you which enzyme to target, but it would also tell you which other metabolites and enzymes surrounding the target would be affected, so that you can select the right combination of drugs in order to reach a desired effect.” l doi:10.1038/ng.2982

Survey finds patient engagement critical to evolving health systems

A survey of senior regional and international healthcare industry officials concludes that patient engagement is critically important for the transformation and sustainability of global healthcare systems, including those in the Middle East.

The survey was conducted at The Gulf Intelligence Healthcare Technology Workshop Forum held recently in Abu Dhabi.

The survey results note that patient engagement is critically important to the transformation and sustainability of global healthcare systems at a time when new ‘smart’ solutions integrating the latest information technologies into hospitals and clinics offer patients unprecedented levels of access to medical records and health information, support illness management through remote and mobile healthcare, and minimize risk through real-time data sharing.

James Fitter, CEO of Oneview Healthcare, said: “Patient engagement and empowerment sit at the heart of the fundamental changes taking place in the healthcare industry all over the world today. At a time when healthcare costs are soaring everywhere, patient engagement is critical for moving from a volume to a value proposition in healthcare.”

The same survey also found that 53% of respondents thought that involving patients in decision making on their care plans was most important for engaging patients in their care; 25% thought that providing patients with the ability to view their personal health record and exchange electronic messages with their clinicians was the most important; and 22% thought that giving patients access to educational content so they could understand their condition and their treatment was the most important.


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