Medical researchers at the Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Center have developed a promising treatment for Covid-19 which has seen 73 patients make a full recovery.
Results have been so encouraging that researchers are ramping up testing on more patients.
The treatment involves harvesting and activating stem cells from the patient’s own blood. The stem cells are then nebulized into a fine mist, which the patient inhales via an aerosol. The first patient was treated on April 4 and since then all 73 patients given the treatment have fully recovered. Of those first test cases, 25 percent were in intensive care. The Ministry of Economy has granted a patent for the innovative method of collecting stem cells and the UAE government has given full approval for further testing to go ahead.
“This is a big achievement,” said Dr Fatima Al Kaabi, who is head of hematology and oncology at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City and also a researcher at the Stem Cell Center. “The next step will be increasing the efficiency of the treatment and implementing it on a larger scale.”
The stem cell treatment is believed to work by regenerating lung cells and also by preventing the body’s immune system from overreacting to the virus infection and thereby damaging healthy cells. The stem cells can divide over and over to produce new cells and aid regeneration of cells. Dr Kaabi said the treatment also appears to “reduce inflammation in the lung tissue.”
One big advantage of the treatment is that it requires no surgery, only a simple blood test. However, Dr Kaabi stressed that it is a treatment and not a cure. “It does not kill the virus – it is supportive,” she said.
The virus works by entering a cell in the respiratory system and depositing its genetic material in that cell, which then multiplies and spreads to other, healthy cells, explained Professor Dr Alawi Sheikh Ali, member of the UAE Council of Scholars and spokesperson for the UAE’s Advanced Sciences Sector. The nu
In the first phase of clinical trials, the new treatment was administered to patients along with conventional methods in use against Covid-19. None of the test patients reported any adverse side effects, indicating the treatment is safe and also does not compromise the standard treatment protocol.
Further trials will continue for the next couple of weeks in the same manner, with patients receiving the new treatment as an addition to – and not a replacement for – the established method.
The UAE leadership have praised the scientists at the Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Center but stressed that the current preventative practices of staying at home, maintaining strict hygiene and social distancing remain necessary.
This story has been updated as new information became available
Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.