A health awareness project aimed at educating the public on the importance of genetics in health, wellbeing and diseases was on Wednesday launched at the University of Ghana in Accra.
Dubbed the Ghanaian Genome (Gh Genome) it is focused on four thematic areas including a nationwide public lecture on the project, an in-country free screening of genetic diseases specifically for sickle cell conditions, breast and prostate cancers.
It would also afford the organisers the opportunity to offer a postgraduate genetics training programme including a Master’s of Science Genetic Counselling programme towards training of the needed manpower for the sequencing of the DNA of 1000 Ghanaian children with severe genetic disorders.
Genetics is the component of biology that is focused on the study of the DNA of organisms, and how they are organised into genes, and higher order structures and how those genes are inherited by offspring.
The Director in charge of the project, Professor Solomon Fiifi Ofori-Acquah speaking at the launch said even though mankind has lived on this piece of land for over 2, 500 years ago, research has shown that people have been identified to have inherited from their forebears’ physique and facial appearance in what we call today as genetics.
He said while a lot of people are happy at their genetic inheritance and understand the role of genetics, there are other traits we inherit that brings so much sadness to a lot of guardians, adding “that is the reason why we’re here today”.
Prof. Ofori-Acquah stated that the burden of undiagnosed diseases due to very low genetic information makes one individual jump to conclusion about a genetically displaced data because we don’t have the capacity to effectively diagnose this disease.
He said for the majority of these patients it’s a big problem for the family because a child is born, their hands shaking uncontrollably, they haven’t spoken in four years, they can’t sit still and hyperactive because we don’t have the capacity to understand the molecular basis of the disease and often not would blame other factors for this miss light.
“It is our duty now to decode the mutations that cause rare genetic diseases in this country so that parents and families can be spared the suspicious look as the basis of a disease we don’t have that much power as individuals to make somebody get a genetic disease if you are here today hence the clarion call from me to rally together to create a situation where we can help families with rare genetic disorders.”
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, commended Prof. Ofori-Acquah and his team for taking an initiative that really translates the vision of the university.
She urged for unity and more public support for the project that has the blessing of the traditional authorities, adding the time has come to showcase to the world that the country’s universities can also make great impact on the lives of the citizenry.
BY LAWRENCE VOMAFA AKPALU