Combating coronavirus: UAE's stem cell treatment fights symptoms of Covid-19, not cure it
Abu Dhabi - Researchers call the treatment national achievement but clarify that it is supportive, not
Clinical trail for the new treatment for Covid-19 using stem cells is underway for the first time in the UAE, Dr Fatima Al Kaabi, Head Hematology and Oncology, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, said on Saturday.
She said the breakthrough by the Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Center is a national achievement.
"Up to 28 specialist and researchers formed the team that came up this treatment," said Dr Fatima, who is also an assistant researcher at stem cell project.
Addressing a press conference on Saturday, the official clarified that new breakthrough supports and doesn't entire cures a patient during treatment period.
"We have utilised all our scientific potentials to deal with Covid-19 crisis. We are proud to have developed this new treatment. It is undergoing clinical trials for first time in the UAE. It's a national achievement. This treatment is supportive and doesn't provide entire cure. It helps patients overcome the symptoms caused by the virus but doesn't kill it.
The treatment involves extracting stem cells from the patient's own blood and reintroducing them after activating them. It is expected to add to the global efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 and to ensure the health and safety of the people of the world.
The new treatment was first experimented on a patient on April 4. And so far, 73 patients have been treated by stem cells with 25 per cent in the ICU.
"We are about to conclude the collection of data to conduct further comparative experiment and compare them with patients who have not received the treatment. We will compare both groups of patients who have received the stem cells treatment and those who haven't. Now next step will be more practical and efficient."
What is stem cell treatment?
Elaborating further on stem cells research and how the treatment was a success, she said: "Stem cells exist in human body with similar characteristics. One of the characteristics is to transform to different kind of cells, reproduce limitlessly, producing more similar stem cells. We isolated one type of primitive stem cells, called embryonic stem cells, which researchers believed to be having renewing potential. We think, it can renew the damage cells and adjust its response to reduce its inflammation caused by Covid-19 in lung tissue and contribute to auto-renewing damaged cells. The advantage of using this cell is that their collection doesn't necessitate a surgical operation as is the case in other type of stem cells. But we only take a blood sample from the patient and inject it in lungs without a surgical intervention but only with a stem cell nebulisation. After taking the blood sample and extracting cells from it, it undergoes a chemical process where platelets responsible for growth in the patient are used to activate, modulate cells, and reinsert them in the lungs of the patients," said Dr Fatima.
Children have more resistance to Covid-19
Dr Alawi Al Sheikh, UAE spokesman for the Advanced Science sector, noted that massive work is ongoing with the UAE scientific community working in cohesion.
He underlined the efforts of Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences and Al Jalila Children's Specialty Hospital and the University of Sharjah in undertaking various studies, which revealed that children are more resistance than seniors to Covid-19.
"We tried to conduct a number of studies to understand how cells contract the disease. The cell surfaces contain receptors. These are gates which can grant access to some but not all to enter. Some of these cells are in respiratory system. Once virus enters respiratory system, it enters its genome characteristics, and overtakes functions of cells, like producing proteins, multiplying DNA, the cell then become a factory of viruses. The abundance of viruses means the immune system will exert more effort to fight the intruders and by doing that the gravity and severity of the case continues," Dr Alawi said.
"One of the studies we did look at was weak spread of virus among children compared to seniors. The study found out that receptors are less in tissues of nose and lung cells of children compared to seniors. Due to less number of receptors in the cells, these contribute to the minimising and limiting the spread of disease among children. The study also found that number of receptors increases among smokers and people from asthma, respiratory problems and other issues like hypertension."
New cases announced
The UAE on Saturday announced 561 new Covid-19 cases and 121 recoveries. The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention also revealed that 22 people of determination were also reported as positive in past two weeks.
"In the past two weeks, we have registered an average of 29,000 tests daily. There were 36,366 new tests conducted on Saturday. There were 561 new cases taking the total to 13,599. As many as 121 patients recovered. Till date there are 2,664 total recoveries. But 8 new deaths were reported taking total to 119 deaths. Most of the deaths were due to complications and chronic diseases. As many as 10,816 patients still receive care," said Dr Amna Al Dahak Al Shamsi, official spokesperson, the UAE Government. Dr Amna urged families of people of determination can call 02-5968689 to book appointment for home tests for Covid-19.