Monday, September 23, 2013

International experts focus on spina bifida prevention and treatment

Doha, September 27. The prevention and treatment of spina bifida was the focus of a major three-day international medical conference that got underway today with the latest research data and innovative new treatment options available.

Spina bifida is a serious birth defect that occurs when the bones of the spine do not form properly around part of a baby’s spinal cord. There is no definitive cure for spina bifida.

Most children who have spina bifida do not have problems from it but it can affect how the skin on the back looks. And in severe cases, it can make walking or daily activities difficult.

Hosted by Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar in association with Hamad Medical Corporation and Sidra, the International Conference on Spina Bifida: Genetic-Environmental Causes, Prevention and Treatment meeting attracted acclaimed international leaders in epidemiology, genetics, fetal surgery, metabolomics and epigenetics. Guest faculty from WCMC-Q, Hamad and Sidra who are all leading geneticists, practitioners in neurology, maternal fetal medicine and nephrology working in Qatar and the region also attended.

Representing WCMC-Q on the public forum panel was Assistant Research Professor of Neurology Alice Abdel Aleem who was also a session moderator.

In his opening address, WCMC-Q Dean Dr. Javaid Sheikh welcomed the distinguished group of experts and praised the work of researchers and the developments that have been made in advancing treatment of spina bifida.

“Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar remains committed to innovative and high quality research not only for the benefit or the development of Qatar but also for international advancement and for the benefit of all those who are in need.  So it is indeed a special honor for WCMC-Q to be associated with this international spina bifida conference. It shows our commitment to the international community and points to our rapidly growing legacy in promoting quality medical research and a leader of medical education in the Gulf region,” Dean Sheikh said.

Organizers said the meeting was designed to be highly interactive, geared toward regional physicians, geneticists and healthcare providers practicing in the GCC community. Participants had ample opportunity to discuss clinical experiences, therapeutic challenges and practical solutions in the near term as well as long-term prospects to accelerate advances in the field of spina bifida treatment and prevention.

Neural Tube Defects (NTDs), primarily spina bifida and anencephaly, are major developmental disorders with prevalence worldwide of one in 1,000 live births. Infants with spina bifida often survive and face a life challenged by paralysis and a variety of urological and neurological complications.

The exact cause of this birth defect is not known. Experts think that genes and the environment are part of the cause. Children with a severe defect are sometimes born with fluid buildup in the brain. They may also have this problem after birth. It can cause seizures, intellectual disability, or sight problems. Some children also develop a curve in the spine, such as scoliosis.

The conference programs presented the latest information regarding the genetic and environmental factors contributing to the development of NTDs. It also provided a forum for overview and discussion of NTDs encountered in Qatar and the MENA region. In addition, an evening public forum provided an opportunity for the Doha non-medical community to hear about the latest research into prevention and treatment of spina bifida and other NTDs from experts in the field.

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