DDI establishes genetic testing to diagnose MODY

Dasman Diabetes Institute (DDI) will be hosting members of an International Scientific Advisory Board, appointed by KFAS, to review progress and discuss future directions of diabetes research at the Institute during 14-15 January.

A major achievement at DDI during the last year is represented by the establishment of genetic testing to diagnose a rare form of diabetes, Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY), in Kuwait. Until now, genetic testing of MODY has only been available in highly specialized laboratories, mostly based in Europe and North America, and accurate diagnosis has thus been restricted due to limited access, relatively high cost and practical difficulties associated with transport of samples over international borders. Consequently, only very limited information is available of the prevalence of MODY in different populations worldwide.

Kuwait has a high burden of diabetes and improved access to diagnosis of MODY represents an important milestone to provide optimal care to patients with diabetes. At the present time, MODY can be expected to represent a relatively small – but unknown – proportion of all patients with diabetes. However, accurate diagnosis of individual patients is critical for personalized management of the disease.

The establishment of capacity to diagnose MODY at DDI was therefore prioritized by the Research Division and successfully implemented by close collaboration between a clinical team led by Dr. Hessa Al-Kandari, consultant pediatric endocrinologist on secondment from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Head of the Department of Population Health at DDI, and Professor Fahd Al-Mulla and his colleagues at the Department of Genetics and Bioinformatics at DDI. Recent installations of new, sophisticated equipment used for genetic testing, together with well-established technical expertise and experience, has made the establishment of this new facility possible at DDI.

By providing improved access to genetic testing, and contributing to improved awareness of MODY among clinicians and patients, DDI will be well positioned to increase our understanding of MODY in Kuwait and beyond.

In particular, with the implementation of a nationwide national diabetes registry, an opportunity to address MODY at the population level will be available in Kuwait within the near future. The initiative to create a National Diabetes Registry is spearheaded jointly by DDI and MOH with an overall aim to create a comprehensive national registry including all forms of diabetes, in all age groups, including MODY.

The National Diabetes Registry represents a very ambitious project which will integrate clinical and laboratory data from Primary Health Centers and MOH Hospital Information Systems covering all six governorates of Kuwait. The initiative to create a National Diabetes Registry has received high-level support at MOH and, strategically important, is integrated into the Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Committee’s work plan and thus linked to national efforts to address the Sustainable Development Goals. Currently, the National Diabetes Registry is implemented as a pilot project in Farwaniya Primary Health Centers but will be expanded to include all Primary Health Centers during 2020.

Studies of MODY prevalence, as well as possible discoveries of new MODY variants, represent a major focus of DDI research agenda. Future research will combine and build on recent development in genetic testing and ongoing efforts to establish a National Diabetes Registry in Kuwait. In addition, DDI will expand collaboration in this field to neighboring countries with a similarly high prevalence of diabetes and high rates of consanguineous marriages to move the research agenda forward to unravel the genetic makeup of MODY and, most importantly, to contribute to improved personalized care to patients living with diabetes.