Dubai: Researchers at a newly-opened cord blood bank are conducting stem cell research, using some of the stored blood, to reduce the incidence of genetic disease in the UAE.
The UAE has one of the highest numbers of genetic disorders in the world, according to figures from the Centre for Arab Genomic Studies.
The Dubai Cord Blood and Research Centre (DCBRC), which opened yesterday, will store cord blood, rich in stem cells, taken from the umbilical cord and the placenta.
Dr Mahmoud Taleb Al Ali, head of research at DCBRC, told Gulf News the centre would conduct research based on the prevalence of the diseases affecting the country.
"The country is in need of genetic research with the number of disorders here. Stem cells are the root of any genetic research," he said.
The UAE recorded 213 genetic disorders in its Catalogue of Transmission Genetic in Arabs (CTGA) database, the highest in the region. Some of the most widespread diseases in the UAE are thalassaemia and sickle-cell disease.
Controversy surrounds research using stem cells from foetuses, which are usually aborted, miscarried or grown in a laboratory. Cord blood, however, is derived from the placenta and umbilical cord, and taken after delivery.
Dr Al Ali said: "The use of cord blood removes any ethical questions that might arise. If it's embryonic stem cells, then that is different."
He said the stem cell research would be done on cord blood units that the centre had rejected.
"Some of the samples get rejected because the number of cells is not enough for transplantation but enough for research. The patients' rights are observed at all times. We ask their permission for the blood."
He added that the centre was seeking to collaborate with genetic research centres in other countries.