Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai Launches New Genetic Service for the UAE and Dr Mariya Moosajee Consults Her First Genetic Eye Disease Patients


Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai (Moorfields) has launched a new genetic service in the UAE to provide patients with genetic testing and enable access to the latest information on drug and gene therapy trials to treat inherited eye diseases. Dr Mariya Moosajee is already consulting her first patients in the UAE – two siblings, a sister and brother, will undergo genetic testing, to identify the cause of their retinal disease and enable them to access the relevant clinical trials that may be able to offer a treatment for their blinding condition.

Dr Mariya Moosajee, MBBS BSc PhD FRCOphth, is a Consultant Ophthalmologist from Moorfields Eye Hospital London and an eminent researcher specialising in Genetic Eye Disease, and a Visiting Consultant to Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai. The Dubai team is working closely with Moorfields, London, UK, where the blood samples from UAE patients undergo genetic testing, to ensure patients here have access to the same quality of bioinformatics and clinical expertise for identifying the disease gene and mutation, as patients treated in London.

Dr. Mariya’s first UAE patients for genetic services are two siblings (9-year old Mohammed and 11-year old Eryam), who both have an early onset severe retinal dystrophy. The retina is the light-sensing layer of the eye that converts light to chemical signals that pass to the brain via the optic nerve to help us see. The siblings hereditary eye disease is caused by a harmful change in a gene that affects the retina, this leads to reduction of the calibre of the blood vessels supplying the retina, a pale optic nerve, widespread pigment deposition in the retina and thinning of the area of central vision called the macula. The siblings were consulted by Dr. Mariya to look at the option of genetic testing to determine the causative gene and to qualify for potential research and treatment trials. The family has decided to go forward with Moorfields for a clinically accredited genetic test called the Oculome, a next generation sequencing exome gene panel that screens over 450 known eye disease causing genes, including 240 which are specifically related to retinal-disease. She can provide a molecular diagnosis for a range of genetic eye conditions including retinal, corneal, optic nerve diseases, birth eye defects, albinism and nystagmus, complex strabismus, childhood glaucoma and cataracts. The results will take 4-6 months to produce and then once Dr. Mariya can confirm the genetic cause, she will be able to discuss the latest research into understanding the disease and treatment trial options available. It can also help with family planning for the future.

Father of the two children, Samir Al Kabbani – who is originally from Syria and a resident in Abu Dhabi – said: “We are very happy with the care and professional attitude of Moorfields in helping my family. After all the doctors we have seen before, Dr. Mariya was the first to take the time to explain to us the condition of my children in detail and in a simple way. We are very thankful to the Moorfields team and Dr. Mariya – she’s an amazing doctor.”

Dr. Mariya Moosajee said: “It is my hope that, in the future, we will be able to provide genetic therapies to our patients in the UAE and this new service is the first important step towards achieving this. Our first experience in consulting with prospective patients has been very positive and confirmed that there is certainly a need and a demand from the region for genetic services. We have also with met people here who have travelled the world looking for help and some of these have been disappointed by incorrect diagnoses and treatment possibilities which are potentially unsafe and unregulated.”

According to Dr. Mariya, ophthalmology has now entered an era in which treatments are a possibility for patients suffering from blinding genetic eye disease. Gene therapy involves surgery to the eye and an injection under the retina with a virus that is used to package and deliver a gene to the diseased tissue. There are many gene therapy and drug treatment clinical trials currently under investigation for a range of genes. So, it is very important for patients to identify the genetic cause of their eye condition. With this knowledge, consultants will be able to offer patients personalised medicine, which is based on their own genetic mutation.

“My laboratory at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital in London both focus on understanding the genetic mutations that cause eye disease and developing new treatments for patients,” added Dr. Mariya. “I use stem cell technology to reprogram skin cells from a patient into stem cells and then can grow early eye cups with retinal cells. This allows me to understand the mechanisms of disease and test new drugs or forms of gene therapy. We are delighted to launch this new genetic service at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai.”

Dr. Mariya Moosajee will visit Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai on January 21st, 2018 to undertake further genetic testing and counseling for families. She will also present at the ADORE Retina and Uveitis conference in Abu Dhabi on 18-20 January 2018, along with four other fellow Moorfields London, Dubai and Abu Dhabi based Consultants: Professor Sue Lightman, Professor Michel Michaelides, Dr. Avinash Gurbaxani and Dr. Igor Kozak.

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