The Molecular Medicine Research Centre at the University of Cyprus is working on the island’s first biobank to help research into hereditary kidney diseases.
Head of the Centre, Professor of Genetics, Constantinos Deltas, in an interview with the Cyprus News Agency said that with the decoding of DNA, it is expected that in the next few years more patients suffering from diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, kidney diseases and many others would receive better treatment and prevention.
The centre was already a point of reference not only for Cyprus but for the whole Greek-speaking region, Deltas said, and it one of the few in Europe which is engaged in such depth with hereditary diseases.
It was established by external funding through the Research Promotion Foundation and the EU structural funds, after competition.
“We are probably one of the few laboratories in Europe which works in depth on hereditary diseases, with regard to diagnosis and transnational medical research,” Deltas said.
He said the centre had already collected thousands of samples from hundreds of families with common and rare hereditary kidney diseases, which allowed his team to develop very ambitious research projects and publish papers in internationally renowned journals.
“Our centre has modern equipment for genetic studies and hopefully soon we will have even more significant research results to announce to the Cypriot people,” he said.
Both his team, as well as other research groups in Cyprus, have developed major research programmes in the past 20 years which aim at understanding the molecular genetic basis of dozens of inherited diseases.
“Such diseases are usually rare (frequency less than one in 2,500 in the general population), but they are numerous and relate to hundreds of families and thousands of people,” Deltas said.
He said those diseases can affect the kidneys, the nervous and musculoskeletal system, the blood system, the heart, the lungs or the intermediary metabolism of the body, or even many types of cancer.
Deltas said the team had registered several founder mutations, ie genetic errors responsible for specific inherited diseases in Cyprus. These mutations, he noted, entered the gene pool from some distant or very distant ancestors.
“We have identified specific geographic areas and villages where there is an increased frequency of some diseases,” he added.
Regarding DNA differences identified among different nationalities, he said that such phenomenon did exist but the issue was very broad and complex, deltas said.
Research shows genetic relationships between different populations and migrations that took place over the centuries after the exodus of the world population’s ancestors from Africa.
It highlights the major migration routes of peoples over the centuries. For example, he added, it is now known how people traveled to the Middle East and then west to inhabit the Mediterranean and northern Europe, before moving south.
From the Middle East they moved east, going to Asia, through which they reached North and South America.
Deltas said genetic findings supported archaeological findings according to which Cyprus was probably first inhabited by people who came from Asia Minor and the Near East. (CNA)