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CellSave Arabia's laboratory for processing and banking cord blood. Dubai-based CellSave Arabia has been successfully using cutting-edge technology for the last 15 years to safely store newborn stem cells Image Credit: Supplied

Stem cells save lives. From cancer, blood diseases and immune disorders to cerebral palsy, hearing loss and heart defects, a range of diseases - about 80, say experts - can be effectively treated with newborn stem cells.

Helping people preserve this treasure for future use is CellSave Arabia, the first and largest stem cell laboratory in the Middle East. Over the past 15 years, the Dubai-based company has been successfully using breakthrough technology to safely store newborn stem cells. Innovation has always been CellSave Arabia’s calling card but it has also set itself apart by demonstrating its commitment to the community through free storage services for families in need.

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Dr. Mai Ibrahim, CEO of CellSave Arabia Image Credit: Supplied

"I'm humbled and extremely pleased to see CellSave Arabia celebrates 15 years of state-of-the-art stem cell services to people in the region,” says Dr. Mai Ibrahim, CEO of CellSave Arabia. “The work of our partners in the field and our dedicated team members, along with the great support from Dubai Healthcare City, has helped us reach this milestone. We are extremely happy to have been able to serve our community for the past 15 years, and the scale of the impact we have had is unbelievable.”

Often referred to as the body’s master cells, stem cells in the newborn umbilical cord blood and placental tissue have strong healing capabilities and can be used to restore damaged tissues. What’s unique about them is that they can transform into any type of specialised cell – whether it’s a blood cell or a nerve cell - which can be used in medical therapies to regenerate organ tissue, blood, or heal the immune system.

The first cord blood stem cell transplant, an international effort between physicians in the U.S. and Europe, was performed in France in 1988. Stem cells collected from a newborn’s umbilical cord blood were used to save the life of her brother, a 5-year-old with Fanconi Anemia, a life-threatening disease. Since then, there are more than 50,000 stem cell transplants performed worldwide every year.

Now standard of care for cancers of the blood and a number of other life-threatening diseases, blood forming stem cells for transplantation can be collected from bone marrow, circulating blood or a newborn baby’s umbilical cord blood and placental tissue. Some experts believe cord blood and placenta contains nearly 10 times the number of stem cells found in bone marrow.

Because umbilical cord stem cells are less mature than adult bone marrow stem cells, they are also less likely to be rejected and can be used when there isn’t a perfect match.

Between these three options, the easiest collection by far is from umbilical cord and placental tissue after a baby is born and the umbilical cord has been cut, at no risk to mother or child, in a process that typically takes 5 to 10 minutes. The cells are then frozen in liquid nitrogen and can be stored indefinitely in a stem cell laboratory.

In the past, the umbilical cord blood and placental, home to newborn stem cells, were usually disposed of after birth. However, in recent years parents have woken up to their benefits, and now the demand for cord blood, or stem cell, banking services is at an all-time high.

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Cryogenic storage of cord blood at CellSave Arabia. About 80 diseases can be effectively treated with newborn stem cells Image Credit: supplied

By providing stem cell storage services, CellSave allows parents to cryogenically freeze the stem cells, explains Dr. Ibrahim. “When stem cells are frozen, they are safe from getting exposed to any kind of environmental damage or common viruses. In addition, their ageing process also stops.”

Unlike normal cells, stem cells don’t have a set lifespan - experts estimate that some stem cells die after five months, while others live for more than three years. “Regardless, getting them frozen stops the ageing process so that they can be used when the need arises,” adds Dr. Ibrahim.

Through its stem cell banking services, what CellSave Arabia offers is a chance for you to store potentially life-saving treatments for your children so that you can fall back on it in case of a medical emergency. As research continues, scientists are discovering new uses for stem cells, and the number of diseases that can benefit from stem cell therapy is likely to increase. That’s why stem cell banking service is an investment worth making.

For more information, follow CellSave on social media @cellsavearabia