Dubai: Dr Mahra Lutfi, the first Emirati stem cell doctor, will also become the first Emirati to be certified by the American Board of Regenerative Medicine at a ceremony taking place at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Dubai on Friday.
A doctor and a United Nations ambassador for stem cell research in the UAE since last March, the 25-year-old from Dubai now dreams with this certification of starting up her own hospital in the UAE dedicated to stem cell therapy.
“I’m really excited and proud to be the first Emirati and it’s an honour to take this award for my country,” she told Gulf News ahead of the ceremony.
“Stem cell technology can treat everything from diabetes to arthritis and infertility through to cosmetics, improving a patient’s condition by 50-70 per cent.
“It is the future of medicine and Dubai is the city of the future, so that’s why I now hope to build the first stem cell research hospital here in the UAE,” she added.
Her inspiration for this project came from fellowships in China and Ukraine — while studying at the Central America Health and Sciences University in Belize — where they have similar facilities.
“A lot of our patients are currently having to travel outside the country to get stem cell treatment, so why not make the UAE the base for stem cells for future generations?
“My end goal is to have a treatment hospital with a stem cell bank, an outpatient clinic to treat patients before and after treatment, and fully equipped wards for every area of the science from neurology to ophthalmology.”
Stem cell treatment, she explained, was the science of harvesting cells from a patient’s own body, separating the cells and naturally activating them. Once activated these cells then go back into the patient’s body to treat the area of concern.
It [stem cell technology] is the future of medicine and Dubai is the city of the future, so that’s why I now hope to build the first stem cell research hospital here in the UAE.
“The UAE is really encouraging this especially as they recently opened the first Emirates Stem Cell Committee, which is chaired by myself. With this committee we hope to take UAE health care to the next level,” added the Kuwait Hospital and De Paris Medical Centre practitioner, who was recognised by the United Nations last March for her work in Afghanistan with Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), a non-profit organisation that runs humanitarian projects in areas of conflict and dire need.
“A lot of people don’t know what stem cell technology is, so we need to create awareness of what it can treat and once the community knows that, they will definitely go for it.
“They should not get confused with another part of the science, which is not related to what we do, and that is cloning and taking cells from plants or animals, we only take cells from a patient’s own body and everything we do follows FDA (US Food and Drug Association) guidelines.”
Asked why she chose to pioneer this unchartered and difficult path, and whether she hoped to be an inspiration to other Emirati women, she replied: “I’ve always been outgoing, and never think negative thoughts, nothing is too hard or impossible if you have passion.
“I want to be the best in what I do and the UAE is top in everything it does, so hopefully we can be pioneers for this technology in the region, especially if you combine it with artificial intelligence,” she said in reference to robots being able to harvest, separate and process cells before re-implanting them.
“More Emiratis should get into medicine because at the moment numbers are very low. We want more to pursue this career and that is what our leaders want, for us to be positive — because our leaders truly believe that our youth are the future.
“I hope I can change the vision of all Emirati women and encourage them to pursue careers and paths and reach their goals and go to where they want to be,” she added.