UAE — M42, a global technology-enabled health powerhouse, has finished sequencing and analyzing the Ghaf tree, the UAE’s national tree, in conjunction with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD).

This project builds on prior research conducted by the Khalifa Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and is an important endeavor as the globe grapples with the implications of climate change and its impact on human health.

The major initiative was announced during Arab Health 2024, which runs from January 29 to February 1 in Dubai.

 This declaration was made in the presence of Dr. Fahed Al Marzooqi, Deputy Group Chief Operating Officer at M42, and Ahmed Al Hashmi, Executive Director of EAD’s Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector.

M42, the event’s Global Health Partner, is leading the charge in building the future of sustainable health by displaying its unique health technology capabilities at its booth in Hall 6.

M42’s Environmental Science experts, led by Dr. Wael Elamin, Medical Director, used cutting-edge sequencing platforms from Oxford Nanopore Technologies to produce high-quality whole-genome sequencing of the Ghaf tree.

With a mapping rate of over 99% and 240 times greater genome coverage than the previous genome reference, the study indicates the exceptional quality of the data generated.

This work contributes to the endeavor to build a comprehensive library of genetic variants, providing vital insights into gene activity, gene expression patterns, and distinctive genetic features.

M42’s method not only offers DNA sequence information but also methylation information.

The findings pave the path for additional nature conservation efforts, understanding draught-resistance biology, the production of robust trees adaptive to varied ecological situations, and capacity building for agro-genomics solutions in the region and beyond.

Dr. Fahed Al Marzooqi, Deputy Group Chief Operating Officer of M42, stated that human health is inextricably linked to environmental health, and this has become increasingly apparent to the world.

He went on to say that M42, which operates at the convergence of health, technology, and sustainability, is devoted to solving national and global health problems with disruptive health-tech solutions

According to him, this unprecedented sequencing work intends to improve understanding of the Ghaf tree’s genetic adaptations for living in arid environments, thereby protecting and promoting the UAE’s natural inheritance.

He went on to remark that this finding is also of essential significance as the globe strives to fight the environmental-warming effects of climate change.

Ahmed Al Hashmi, Executive Director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD, commented on the world-first, stating that he is delighted to collaborate with M42 on this pioneering project analyzing and sequencing the genome of the Ghaf tree, which is consistent with their mission of monitoring and conserving plant species in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

He underlined that the key goal is to have a better understanding of the Ghaf tree through scientific research so that policies and a conservation framework can be developed.

This will safeguard the species’ viability for future generations as well as the preservation of the UAE’s natural heritage.

The Ghaf tree, scientifically known as Prosopis cineraria, is crucial for maintaining arid soil and minimizing damage, as well as providing habitat for diverse desert species.

The tree is well-known for its ability to live in arid settings, and M42’s groundbreaking genomics study intends to advance our understanding of genetic features that enable organisms to thrive in difficult environments.

On average, each plant lives for 120 years, and the tree was traditionally used to feed animals and for its reputed medicinal benefits.

The Ghaf tree was proclaimed the UAE’s national tree in 2008 due to its cultural and historic significance.

The effort positions M42 at the vanguard of technology-driven innovation and science, as well as demonstrating its commitment to addressing global health and sustainability issues.

The study’s findings are scheduled to be published in a prestigious scientific journal.

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