Abu Dhabi: The innovative and promising treatment for COVID-19 infections using stem cells is supportive not curative, it helps patients to defeat the COVID-19 symptoms rather than eradicating the virus itself, a top health official has revealed on Saturday.
While speaking during the UAE Government regular media briefing , Dr. Fatima Al Kaabi, Head of Hematology and Oncology Department at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, and research assistant of the Stem Cell Project, said: “At the Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Center, we are proud to work on developing a supportive treatment for COVID-19 patients, which is undergoing clinical trials for the first time in the UAE, this is a national achievement”.
Dr. Fatima added: “We have successfully passed the initial phase of clinical trials - with 73 patients making full recoveries without any adverse side effects. The recipients were moderately or severely ill before treatment, with 25 per cent of them were at ICUs”.
“We are finalizing data collection to establish the effectiveness of this treatment, comparing a control group with the same characteristics of the patients that received the treatment. Next steps involve evaluating its effectiveness and application to a wider group”.
She further said: “A total of 28 researchers at Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Center worked on isolating an early-developed stem cell that maintains regenerative qualities. The procedure is less invasive, only requiring drawing blood from patients, and administration is done via jet nebulization method”.
“After we collect blood and separate cells, we put them through a biochemical process whereby the patient’s own platelets growth factor is used to activate the cells. We believe they are able to regenerate damaged cells, help in repairing pulmonary damage,” Al Kaabi noted.
Dr. Fatima also said: “Stem cells are a special type of cells found throughout the human body. They have multiple characteristics including the ability to transform into other types of cells and reproduce indefinitely to create more of the same cells. The idea behind using stem cells in treatments is to harness their unique characteristics to regenerate cells that do not regenerate on their own”.
She highlighted that stem cells have been used as supportive therapies in many cases, including leukemia and immunodeficiency disorders for more than 30 years.
Also speaking during the briefing was Prof. Alawi Al Sheikh-Ali, Emirates Scientists Council‘s spokesperson.
“The scientific community of the UAE continues to focus on the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19). Several research groups across UAE universities are conducting extensive studies to reach a deeper understanding of the virus” Prof. Alawi said.
He added: “A group of researchers from the University of Sharjah and Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences worked on a study to understand why older adults and patients with comorbidities get severe COVID19 symptoms than younger populations”.
Risk of different groups
Emirates Scientists Council‘s spokesperson noted that the study has found that children have less of specific receptors called (ACE2) in their nasal and lung tissue compared to adults, which make the virus entry possible. Also, the study has found that these receptors are increased in smokers, patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthmatic patients, and patients with pulmonary hypertension.
Another study with collaborative team including Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Sharjah and Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital is examining the relationship between obesity and COVID-19, he underlined.
The findings of the studies contribute to our understanding of why older adults and people with comorbidities may be at a higher risk of infection and develop severe COVID19 symptoms. They also confirm the need to adhere to the precautionary measures set by the UAE Government, he added.