Defeating diabetes in Oman

Oman Sunday 13/October/2019 23:29 PM
By: Times News Service

Muscat: A team of researchers at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) are conducting a series of tests to see if diabetes can be defeated once and for all. This news comes on the heels of a report that stated that Oman witnessed a 15 per cent rise diabetes cases in the last year alone.

This research comes in the wake of comments made by Oman’s Minister of Health, HE Dr Ahmed Al Saeedi, who said that diabetes was one of the most prevalent conditions in the country.
“Diabetes and other chronic diseases are unfortunately one of the most prevalent diseases in the Sultanate and neighbouring countries. While more than 15 per cent of people in Oman have diabetes, there are countries with a higher number as well."
"These figures translate into complications such as kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases, which unfortunately are on the rise. Most of these diseases are related to lifestyle," Dr Al Saeedi added.

The minister’s comments came during his speech at the Seventh Congress of the American Royal Society of Endocrinologists.

According to Oman's Ministry of Health, a total of 94,921 cases diabetes cases were registered at national level in 2017, including 6,360 new cases in various governorates of Oman. The ministry’s report showed that 6,360 new cases were registered in 2017, of which women constituted 51.8 per cent, with 3,198 cases, as compared to 2,863 men.

About 14 per cent of the cases registered were in the age group of people between 40 to 44 years, followed by the age group of those between 50 to 54 years (13.6 per cent) and the age group of individuals from 45 to 49 years (13.5 per cent). The highest number of new cases were reported in North Al Batinah (1,515) followed by Muscat (1,164). Only 101 cases were reported in the Wusta and Al Buraimi governorates.
Researchers at SQU are conducting experiments on zebrafish, a tropical fish that is becoming increasingly important in the fields of scientific research. SQU researchers from the Department of Marine Sciences and Fisheries are conducting experiments on the zebrafish to study diseases that affect humans, and in this case, the studies deal with diabetes, and how they can be studied and hopefully, be eliminated one day.

Ahmed Al Kyumi, the leader of the project at SQU, said that scientists used a variety of laboratory animals to investigate the prevention and cure of human diseases. “For instance, apes, rats, rabbits and mice have been frequently used as animal models in medical experiments for a long time,” he said. “Though apes have a similar anatomy and physiological function to humans, using apes as animal models leads to higher costs and difficult management.

“Researchers have been searching for better animal models, which have similar anatomy and physiological function of humans, but also the merits of being individually small, easily managed, and available at low costs,” added Al Kyumi. “Among approximately 26,000 genes, 2,601 of zebrafish genes have the same potential as human disease genes and this gene similarity between zebrafish and humans gives us potential to study human diseases.”

In this context, Al Kyumi added that the using the zebrafish as an animal model for experiments has immense value in researching human diseases. “The use of zebrafish is far more suitable in the aspect of research ethics, the cost and the availability of a test object.”

This zebrafish project was awarded at Manafa’a 2019 programme, that was organised by the Oman Animal and Plant Genetic Resources Centre. The purpose of this event was to build eco-entrepreneurs with genetic resources in Oman. As many as 55 teams from across the Sultanate participated at the first stage and 15 teams competed at the final stage through the ideathon on 27 and 28 September. The project, titled ‘Using zebrafish as an experimental model for anti-diabetes’ was selected as one of four winning projects.

The supervisor of this project, Dr Gilha Yoon said: “This type of research is not confined to marine science alone, it requires collaboration with different fields such as medicine, crop science, pharmacology and fisheries. This collaboration is what the Sultanate needs now, as there is a huge potential for the development of research and innovation in this area and creating advances in the medical, environmental and academic fields.”