Low Genetic Information Responsible for Paternity Issues Involving Sickle Cell Disease In Ghana – Prof. Ofori-Acquah

Professor Solomon Fiifi Ofori-Acquah

The Ghanaian Genome (GhGenome) Project, a genetics health awareness initiative to educate Ghanaians about the importance of genetics in health, wellbeing and diseases has been launched at the Great Hall of the University.

Delivering a public lecture on the GhGenome Project, Professor Solomon Fiifi Ofori-Acquah, Director, West African Genetic Medicine Centre (WAGMC) and GhGenome Director, said, low genetic information is responsible for the burden of undiagnosed diseases in Ghana. Prof. Ofori-Acquah mentioned progeria, multiple sclerosis and ichthyosis as some of the rare genetic diseases diagnosed in Ghanaians and noted that the capacity to effectively diagnose these diseases is a struggle.

 “For majority of these patients, it’s a big problem for the family because a child is born, their hands are shaking uncontrollably, they haven't spoken in four years, they can't sit still and are hyperactive because we don't have the capacity to understand the molecular basis of the disease; often we would blame other factors for this”, Prof. Ofori-Acquah stated.

The lecturer disclosed that it was the duty of GhGenome to decode mutations causing rare genetic diseases in the country so that parents and families can be spared the suspicious look as the basis of a disease. Prof. Ofori-Acquah noted that every year, over four hundred children in Ghana were diagnosed with cancer and leukaemia due to genetics and a change in Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) that increases the risk of childhood cancers. He stated that the lack of genetic testing in Ghana meant a death sentence for many children diagnosed with childhood cancers in the country.

Prof. Ofori-Acquah indicated that there was limited knowledge of sickle cell disease inheritance in Ghana. He stressed on the inheritance of one copy of the sickle cell mutation and one copy of a thalassaemia mutation also causing sickle cell disease. In his delivery, Prof. Ofori-Acquah centered on the duty of GhGenome to unravel the mutations that cause beta thalassaemia in Ghana to help our communities to fully understand the inheritance of sickle cell disease.

In decoding the Ghanaian Genome, Prof. Ofori-Acquah indicated that the DNA was made up of four nucleotides namely, adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G). He pointed out that one set of human genome contained 3.2 billion of the building blocks of DNA and since people inherited one set from each parent, every individual had 6.4 billion nucleotides.

The lecturer explained genome as the entirety of the DNA put together and further indicated that to decode the Ghanaian Genome, it was necessary to establish an entity to build capacity and engage the public in all aspects of human genomics in Ghana. He added that it was essential to sequence the DNA of Ghanaian children since they are more vulnerable to diseases.

He also indicated that the GhGenome Project was particularly welcoming to traditional leaders because they were the custodians of the country’s heritage, and the Project considers the Ghanaian DNA as the most basic of all heritage.

Prof. Ofori-Acquah said the second group the Project targets is the youth since they are the ones that would benefit most from knowing their genetic status, especially as it pertains to reproductive health, and risks to diseases.

Prof. Fiifi Ofori-Acquah concluded by saying all Ghanaians would benefit from knowing the risk of developing genetic disorders to potentially avoid passing on disease-causing genes to their children.

During the event, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, Vice-Chancellor and Chair of the occasion, commended Prof. Ofori-Acquah and the WAGMC for taking an initiative that was in line with the vision of the university to increase research output.

Prof. Amfo stated that GhGenome promises to lead Ghana into the genomic revolution which is transforming how patients are cared for in more advanced countries. She was hopeful and confident that the GhGenome Project would be a magnet to attract more research funding to the University.

Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo

Earlier, Daasebre Ayimadu Kantamanto (II), the Okyeman Gyasehene and Kwabenghene, launched the Project on behalf of Okyenehene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin. He also wished the leadership and staff of the GhGenome Project the best in their activities.

The Project is focused on four main areas: a nationwide public lecture series on the Ghanaian Genome; an in-country free screening of genetic diseases specifically for sickle cell conditions, breast, and prostate cancers.

The GhGenome Project also includes a postgraduate genetics training programme- including the first Master of Science (MSc) Genetic Counselling programme which has already begun; and the sequencing of the DNA of 1,000 Ghanaian children with severe genetic disorders.

The Ghana Dance Ensemble graced the occasion with cultural performances.

Present at the event were; Nii Nortey Owuo (IV), Osu Manste, Osu Traditional Area; Nii Tackie Owuowuo IV, Korle Gonno Mantse, Korle Gonno Traditional Area; Prof. Felix Ankomah Asante, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research, Innovation and Development; and Mrs. Emelia Agyei-Mensah, Registrar.

Also present were other University officials, students and members of the University Community.