M42, in collaboration with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), has completed its sequencing and analysis of the Ghaf tree, it has been shared.
Building on previous research led by Khalifa Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, M42’s genomics project aims to drive a better understanding of genetic traits that enable organisms to thrive in challenging environments.
The Ghaf tree, the national tree of the UAE and scientifically known as Prosopis cineraria, plays an important role in stabilising desert soil and preventing damage; it also provides refuge for various desert creatures.
Traditionally, the tree was used to feed livestock, and for its purported medicinal properties. Further, each plant lives for 120 years on average.
M42’s team of Environmental Science experts, led by Dr. Wael Elamin, Medical Director at M42, utilised cutting-edge sequencing platforms from Oxford Nanopore Technologies to achieve high-quality whole-genome sequencing of the Ghaf tree.
This work supplements the effort to create a robust catalogue of genetic variants offering valuable insights into gene functionality, gene expression patterns and unique genetic traits.
The technology used by M42 also provides methylation information over and above the DNA sequence.
The findings pave the way for further nature conservation efforts, it was shared, and will help facilitate a better understanding of draught-resistance biology and the development of resilient trees adaptable to diverse ecological conditions.
Further, the findings, which will soon be published in a scientific journal, will also enable capacity building for agro-genomics solutions for the region and beyond.
Commenting on this, Dr. Fahed Al Marzooqi, Deputy Group Chief Operating Officer, M42 said: “Human health is intricately intertwined with environmental health, and this has become increasingly clear to the world. Operating at the intersection of health, technology, and sustainability, M42 is committed to addressing national and global health themes with disruptive health-tech solutions. Our groundbreaking sequencing initiative aims to enhance the understanding of the Ghaf tree’s genetic adaptations for thriving in arid conditions, which safeguards and champions the UAE’s natural legacy. The research also assumes critical significance as the world seeks to tackle the environment-warming effects of climate change.”
Ahmed Al Hashmi, Executive Director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD commented on the world-first, “We are pleased to partner with M42 on this pioneering project analyzing and sequencing the genome of the Ghaf tree in line with our mission of monitoring and conserving plant species in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Our main goal is to have a better understanding through scientific research of the Ghaf tree to develop policies and a conservation framework to assure sustainability of the species for the future generations and to preserve the natural heritage of the UAE.”
It was noted that M42’s sequencing technology can be used anywhere in the world for the investigation and conservation of flora and fauna of interest.
The announcement of the landmark project was made at Arab Health 2024, running from 29 January to 1 February in Dubai.