Burjeel hospital uses point-of-care method which is a process of collecting, processing and administering the cells within one medical procedure.
Dubai - Doctors at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi, start autologous stem cell treatment
Stem cells from the bone marrow are being extracted and re-injected into patients to repair damaged tissues in a therapy that could change the lives of thousands of heart patients in the UAE.
Doctors at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi started this autologous stem cell treatment in May this year for at least two patients who had degenerative diseases, one of whom has a severe neurological disease.
"Results have been promising," Dr Norbert W Dreier, Consultant, Oncology and Hematology told Khaleej Times. "There has been a slow but steady improvement in the condition of the patient and we have a happy family."
Amongst the various kinds of stem cell treatments used worldwide, autologous mononuclear stem cells (aSCs) are now given special attention. These are adult stem cells obtained from the person who is being treated. They represent a mix of stem cells generated in the softer, spongier sections of the bone marrow where their potency to 'integrate' into different cell types is highest.
"Since stem cell transplant is still not being done in the UAE, this treatment comes as an alternative," said Dr Norbert.
|What are stem cells?|
Stem cells are the building blocks for every tissue and organ in the body. These are found in different parts of the body and produced at different stages. These include embryonic stem cells (ES), myoblasts (muscle stem cells), adult bone marrow-derived cells such as mesenchymal cells (bone marrow-sourced cells that create tissues such as muscle, fat, bone, tendons and ligaments), endothelial progenitor cells (cells that produce the interior lining of blood vessels), hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) or hemocytoblasts (stem cells that generate platelets, and red blood and white blood cells) and umbilical cord cells.
What is autologous stem cell treatment?
In an autologous treatment, a patient's own blood-forming stem cells are collected. He or she is then treated with high doses of chemotherapy, or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.
Cells with a higher yield are extracted and after a while the cells multiply and produce specific cells needed for the damaged organ to repair itself. These cells are not rejected by the body, and do not show risk of forming tumors. They also do not represent any ethical concern.
The hospital uses the point-of-care method which is a process of collecting, processing and administering the cells within one medical procedure.
Once the bone marrow is drawn from the patient, it is processed in a highly advanced machine, generating a concentrate of mononuclear cells and bone marrow derived plasma. The mononuclear cell concentrate and plasma are both injected into a patient. The stem cells, once isolated, are injected via a coronary catheter directly into the heart, followed by the injection of bone marrow derived plasma, which is the carrier fluid for the stem cells.
The procedure is carried out under general anaesthesia and the patient needs a day or two in hospital for recovery.
"We take cells with a higher yield and after a while, the cells multiply and produce specific cells needed for the damaged organ to repair itself. The effect can be seen immediately," the doctor explained.
"These cells are not rejected by the body, and do not show any risk of forming tumors in future and do not represent any ethical concern. That is why, they are highly researched and promoted for cell therapies," added Dr Norbert.
He, however, points out that the treatment is not standard but experimental and is being done under regulations. "When you don't have a choice, you try everything."
The treatment is also used for specific indications such as in cases where the heart tissue has been damaged due to diabetes and surgery is not an option.
The most widely used treatments are blood stem cell transplantation such as bone marrow transplantation to treat blood and immune system disorders (such as diabetes or certain types of anemia) or to rebuild the blood system after treatments for some kinds of cancer, he said.
The therapy is also under focus for treating vascular conditions such as diabetic neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease and even the management of chronic wounds such as pressure ulcers and diabetic foot.
"Embryonic stem cells, for instance, are seen in the body during the earliest stages of development; tissue-specific stem cells are produced during fetal development and remain throughout life," said Prof Dr Tahar Benhidjeb, Consultant, General Surgery, Chairman of Surgery and Deputy Medical Director at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi.
Prof Dr George S. Kobinia, General, Cardiac, Vascular and Thoracic Surgeon at the hospital said that recent studies have shown that adult tissues have a continuous self-renewal process throughout life.
The doctors also plan to publish data from their treatments in future.