The University of Ghana, Accra has introduced three postgraduate programmes in genetics to train professionals in the handling of diseases such as sickle cell, breast and prostate cancer in the country.
The new programmes are Master of Science (MSc) in Genetic Counselling, Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctorate (PhD) degrees in Medical Molecular Genetics.
The programmes are being implemented by the West Africa Genetic Medicine Centre (WAGMC) under the initiative called GhGenome project which was launched in August last year.
The centre currently has 13 students taking the Masters programme in Genetic Counselling, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the centre’s director, Prof. Fiifi Ofori-Acquah says it hopes to have trained about 100 professionals by 2025.
“We hope by the end of the initial funding of the centre in 2025, we would have trained close to 100 students with master’s degrees in various aspects of genetics, about 45 PhDs in different areas of genetics, as well as help develop the consciousness of citizens about genetics,” said Ofori-Acquah.
The director said a Genomic Medicine Complex building was being constructed at the university to support the training of more health professionals in genetics.
What is Genetics?
Genetics is the branch of biology that entails the study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics.
Ofori-Acquah said the study focused on traits inherited from parents such as height, colour of skin and length of fingers. He noted that one of goals of the centre was to mobilise enough funds to ensure that the training programmes were sustained beyond 2025 when the initial funding from the World Bank would have ended.
The GhGenome project aimed at increasing awareness of genetics and its role in well-being, general health and diseases.
It was also to help build the capacity of the country to provide services in genetic health.
Ofori-Acquah said as part of the awareness process, the centre provided free screening for diseases such as sickle cell disease, breast cancer and prostate cancer.
The Genome scientist further said that the country had not done enough on awareness creation of citizens testing to know their genetic status.
He, therefore, called on the people to take the GhGenome Pledge to find out their sickle cell status before marriage, get their newborn babies tested for sickle cell disease before their first immunisation and find out the risk of getting breast cancer, among other diseases.