Dubai: Dr Fatima Al Kaabi, an Emirati consultant haematologist based in Dubai, is now a prominent name in medical books. She, along with a team of professionals, has come up with a newly-patented treatment for COVID-19. As a result of her innovation in regenerative stem cell inhalation therapy, Dr Al Kaabi has been prominently featured at the UAE Pavilion in Expo 2020 Dubai.
“The future of health care is precision medicine, where treatment is based on a person’s biology and lifestyle, rather than a one-size-ﬁts-all approach. With UAECell19, the patented treatment for COVID-19, my team and I have designed just that [precision medicine].”
She said: “It separates a patient’s stem cells from his or her blood and reintroduces them through inhalation. Made available free to more than 15,000 medium and high-risk patients across the UAE, the protocol has shown to have reduced hospital stay from 22 to just six days.”
What is UAECell19?
Explaining her innovation, Al Kaabi said: “In moderate-to-severe cases, COVID-19 infects a patient’s lungs and dramatically reduces one’s ability to breathe. This new regenerative treatment extracts stem cells from the patient’s own blood, using the centerfusion method. The patient then inhales his or her own stem cells via a jet nebuliser for two consecutive days. The treatment has been both safe and effective in reducing lung inﬂammation and enhancing recovery with no adverse effects,” the doctor explained.
On December 15, 2021, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), while visiting the Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre (ADSCC), commended the work of Dr Yendry Ventura, general manager of ADSCC, and Dr Fatima Al Kaabi, director of the AD-BMT Programme for their innovation.
For the record, ADSCC specialises in developing pioneering methods for targeted stem cell therapies that rapidly detect, identify and count specific cells. It was founded in March 2019 with the primary objective of meeting growing domestic and regional demand for advanced medical services and the most innovative treatments in the country.
WHO has commended ADSCC for providing its cutting-edge stem cell treatment to infected patients. More than 13,800 patients have received the UAECell19 treatment to date.
Success with first patient
Dr Al Kaabi said her first patient was a man in his early 60s. “He was on the ventilator. He was on dialysis with multiple organ failure. His heart was barely pumping. A week into our treatment, he did not require dialysis. His condition improved and he managed to walk out of the hospital. This is a story we hold close to our hearts.”
How does it work?
"After we get sick we recover. Our body has the healing power, though it varies from person to person. Based on this concept, we came up with the solution. We conducted a safety study that showed that it is 99.9 per cent safe. Actually, it is 100 per cent safe,” said Dr Al Kaabi.
Dr Al Kaabi said that the pandemic had created a momentum for continued stem cell research and the nation’s genome project. “When the pandemic hit us, my team at the stem cell centre and myself came together and we tried to find solutions to the issue on hand. We knew we had to unify our efforts to make a difference. So, after a few meetings and brainstorming, we came up with the idea of UAECell19,” she explained.
She further said: “The UAE is a unique ecosystem that has been created by visionary leaders who have removed the word ‘impossible’ from our vocabulary. I am so proud, as an Emirati, that my nation has achieved this. Going forward, with the visionary leadership, we know there will be more milestones and achievements for the nation.”
Taking inspiration from family and patients
“My inspiration comes from a collective imprint sourced from people and stories throughout my life. It comes from my family as a whole, led by my parents. My inspiration also comes from my patients’ stories and their courage,” said Dr Al Kaabi who had studied medicine at UAE University (UAEU) and later completed her Master’s in Public Health from Johns Hopkins university in the United States.
Dr Al Kaabi did an additional Master’s programme in cancer care from the University College London (UCL). She followed this with a fellowship in haematology at the Royal Free Hospital (London).
Dr Al Kaabi said: “Success comes at the right time with the correct formula. Hurdles are expected along the way, which makes success even more special and worth pursuing. So keep pursuing your dream.”