Saudi Arabia leads gene-sequencing efforts

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Saudi gene
Saudi scientists search human DNA for answers to widespread diseases.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East is partnering with Life Technologies to map out human DNA and better understand several life-threatening diseases. See, each of us has unique DNA, which are tiny blueprints that tell our bodies how to grow and function. Inside DNA are smaller units called genes that are passed down from your parents. Genes provide coded instructions for making everything the body needs, but sometimes these little guys can work against us.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, genes are contributing to 32% of adults suffering a blood sugar imbalance called type 2 diabetes, and 33% having hypertension, or high blood pressure.

It’s bad enough that 8% of Saudi children are born with major genetic diseases, but the adult population really needs answers fast, since one-third of them have life-threatening diabetes and hypertension. Type 2 diabetes affects how the body absorbs sugar, your main source of fuel, by making it hard for a chemical called insulin to store or use sugar. As for hypertension, it strains the heart by moving blood through it too fast, which can lead to all kinds of malfunctions.

Now, the Saudi Arabian government is partnering with Life Technologies Corp to sequence, or map out, genes in one of the largest gene-sequencing efforts ever. By building a national database, they can use the results to more quickly identify diseases, even before someone’s born. This will give doctors and parents more time to take preventive measures against genetic disorders.

Featured image courtesy of Life Technologies Facebook.