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Sun 3 May 2020 10:50 AM

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UAE to ramp up stem cell treatment of Covid-19

Stem cells being used to treat coronavirus, not kill the infection on its own

UAE to ramp up stem cell treatment of Covid-19

Stem cells have been used for more than 30 years as a supportive therapy for several illnesses, including leukemia, and immunodeficiency disorders.

A revolutionary stem cells programme developed in the UAE to help treat Covid-19 is to be ramped up to see how effective it is in tackling the deadly virus.

Some 28 researchers and specialists from the Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Centre have collaboratively worked on developing the breakthrough treatment.

However, Fatima Alkaabi, head of hematology & oncology at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, was warned that the new potential therapy is a supportive treatment that helps coronavirus patients overcome the symptoms of the virus and does not kill the virus on its own.

A total of 73 patients, in the mild to critical bracket, have undergone the stem cell treatment trials so far, 25 percent of whom had been under intensive care.

Alkaabi said: “We did the first trial on April 4 and we are now close to completing the compilation of all needed data to perform more comparative trials.

"The more patients we can try the treatment on, the faster we will decide how efficient the treatment is. We will compare the conditions of the patients who’ve received the supportive treatment with those who have not received. Health and safety are always placed on top of our priorities. The next step will be toward applying the treatment on a larger scale.”

Stems cells have been used for more than 30 years as a supportive therapy for several illnesses, including leukemia, and immunodeficiency disorders.

Alkaabi, who is also an assistant researcher at the stem cells programme, explained: "We have isolated a type of primitive stem cells, called embryonic stem cell, which researchers think carry regenerative potential. They belong to that type of cells that are capable of regenerating damaged cells to reduce lung inflammation resulting from COVID-19, and thereby can help these cells to self-regenerate.

"The advantage provided by these cells is that they don’t require surgical intervention as is the case with other types of stem cells. They require a blood sample to be taken from the patient with the therapy to be inhaled into the lungs without surgical intervention. After a blood sample has been taken, the cells therein are subjected to a biological chemical process where the platelets responsible for growth are used to activate these cells so that we can get them inhaled back into the lungs."

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