Abu Dhabi now has its own means of analysing the genetic code of Covid-19.
A team of scientists from several scientific institutions in Abu Dhabi have created a chemical solution which can extract ribonucleic acid, or RNA, from the virus. RNA acts as a messenger for cellular organisms to convey genetic information. Many viruses encode their genetic information using an RNA genome. Extracting RNA from Covid-19 is a key component in testing, as it enables scientists to learn more about how the virus behaves. Testing for the virus involves taking nasal swabs from patients, extracting the RNA and then using the solution to analyse whether the test is positive or negative.
Creation of the chemical solution is yet another step forward in the UAE’s determination to defeat the coronavirus through innovative science.
Until now, the chemical solution needed to extract RNA has had to be imported into the UAE, but Abu Dhabi will now have its own supply manufactured in specialist laboratories in the emirate. The researchers developed the solution in just two weeks and it has already proven effective. Manufacture of the first batch of 200,000 units is already underway while the next batches will contain a million units, the Department of Health told Wam, the UAE’s state news agency.
The development is the result of collaboration between researchers from Abu Dhabi Department of Health, Abu Dhabi Health Services (SEHA), Abu Dhabi Ports Company, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, KU and Unilabs.
“The UAE continues to take steps to unify teams at all levels in order to confront the virus,” said Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, chairman of the Department of Health. “The success that we have achieved with our partners …. Is yet another milestone that we take pride in. This imperative step will further boost our objective of expanding the scope and capabilities of Covid-19 testing.”
Like the more familiar DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RNA is essential to all forms of life. In the past, microbiologists believed RNA’s main role was an intermediate one between DNA and proteins but its function is now known to be much broader and includes regulating cell activity, finding and “turning off” specific genes and sensing responses to cellular signals.
Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.