UAE scientists find genetic link to life-threatening conditions resulting from COVID-19 in children
Dubai: Equipped with the genetic and clinical data of dozens of Arab children in Dubai and Jordan, a new study by scientists from the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and the hospital Children’s Specialist Al Jalila points to new genetic factors that may contribute to Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a rare life-threatening complication resulting from COVID-19 in children.
MIS-C is a rare but serious complication that can occur in children with COVID-19. The disease is characterized by intense inflammation (cytokine storm) and can affect multiple organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal organs. MIS-C is a life-threatening condition if not diagnosed and treated early. It is not yet known why some children develop this complication, but a recent study provides new evidence on potential genetic factors linked to MIS-C.
Genetic changes linked to the damaging immune system
The study analyzed clinical and laboratory markers and genomic results from 70 primarily Middle Eastern children with COVID-19, 45 of whom met the MIS-C case definition while 25 did not and were included as “controls”. The patients were treated at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital in the United Arab Emirates and at Jordan University Hospital, between September 2020 and August 2021.
Funded by the Al Jalila Foundation and published in JAMA Network Open, the study found that children with MIS-C were significantly more likely to have rare and likely damaging immune system-related genetic changes compared to “control” children. » with COVID-19, but without MIS-C. Moreover, there was an association between the genetic findings and disease onset and resistance to treatment.
“This is an important study not only because the results show comprehensive genetic profiling of children with MIS-C, which is essential for characterizing the genetic contribution to the disease, but also because the original patients Arabs have long been underrepresented in genetic studies,” said Dr. Walid Abuhammour, head of the pediatric infectious diseases department at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital and study investigator.
The study is the result of a multi-institutional collaboration between Dubai-based scientists from MBRU, Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, the Department of Medical Education and Research and the Department of Pathology at Dubai Health Authority, as well as colleagues from the University of Jordan and the Department of Pediatrics at the Specialty Hospital in Jordan.
“Excellence in clinical care and discovery”
“With all Dubai Academic Health Corporation entities involved, this study demonstrates the Corporation’s vision to foster collaboration and drive excellence in clinical care and discovery. This work represents a model for future high-quality research that will have a positive impact on patients worldwide, as evidenced by the publication of the results in a highly respected scientific journal,” said Professor Suleiman Al-Hammadi, Dean from the College of Medicine at MBRU.
“This study provided researchers from the Dubai Academic Health Corporation with the opportunity to participate in collaborative research, which involved several researchers from different institutions and organizations. Collaborative research is always encouraged as it has many benefits, including developing new research skills, strengthening partnerships and building research capacity in healthcare organizations,” said Dr. Hamda Hassan Khansaheb, Head of Medical Research in the Department of Medical Education and Research, Dubai Health Authority.
“Developing genomic sequencing”
“The results of this research suggest that rare genetic factors play a role in MIS-C disease and highlight immune system-related pathways, which may become targets for intervention,” said Ahmad Abou Tayoun, director of the Al Jalila Children’s Genome Center and Associate Professor of Genetics at MBRU.
“Hopefully, this will now prompt additional studies to functionally characterize some of the identified genes and to extend genomic sequencing to more diverse populations to fully characterize the genetic landscape of this novel disease entity,” added Dr Abou Tayoun.