Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 10 July 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: UAE medics to ramp up stem cell trials after encouraging results

A mist that is inhaled into the lungs was given to 73 Covid-19 patients - all of whom have recovered

Researchers in Abu Dhabi are to increase testing on stem cell treatment that appeared to help coronavirus patients to recover.

A medication developed by Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Centre was used on 73 patients with Covid-19 - about 25 per cent of those were in intensive care.

All of those involved in the trial have since recovered and it is thought the treatment played a part. The first patient was treated on April 4.

Speaking on Saturday night, Dr Fatima Al Kaabi, head of haematology and oncology at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City and a researcher at the centre, said the government would push ahead with the project.

"This is a big achievement ... the next step will be increasing the efficacy of the treatment and implementing it on a larger scale," she told a televised press conference.

The next step will be increasing the efficacy of the treatment and implementing it on a larger scale

Dr Fatima Al Kaabi, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City

At the same briefing, officials announced 561 new Covid-19 cases, a further 121 recoveries and eight more deaths.

The number of cases stood at 13,599, with a total of 2,664 recoveries and 119 fatalities. On average, 29,000 people were tested each day and the figure was 36,000 on Saturday.

Among the recently diagnosed cases were 22 people with disabilities, who were specially tested at home and who were receiving treatment.

The trial treatment involves extracting stem cells from the patient’s blood and reintroducing them after "activating" them.

After it has been nebulised into a fine mist, the treatment is inhaled into the lungs of a patient.

Researchers believe it has a therapeutic effect caused by regeneration of lung cells. It is also thought to moderate the immune response to keep it from overreacting to the Covid-19 infection and causing further damage to healthy cells.

Dr Al Kaabi also said researchers believe it "reduced inflammation in the lung tissue".

At the same briefing, Prof Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, spokesman for the country's advanced sciences sector, gave a breakdown on findings by several local universities.

He reiterated that the virus was less easily spread by children and that symptoms were much less serious than adults, though children do get the virus.

Prof Alsheikh-Ali also warned that smokers and people with obesity were at higher risk.

He also said people with heart conditions, asthma and high blood pressure must be cautious.

Officials said the stem cell trials - while at an early stage - had showed promising results.

None of the patients who were treated with the mist reported immediate adverse effects, officials said.

Doctors across the globe are looking at whether existing drugs and medical treatments could be repurposed and given to Covid-19 patients.

This include antimalarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine, which regulates how the immune system reacts to disease.

It also includes remdesivir, which was developed to fight Ebola and interferes with the virus’s ability to make copies of itself, limiting it from spreading in the body.

In the absence of a vaccine or proven cure, other measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus include staying at home and social distancing to reduce the burden of the disease on the healthcare system.

Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre is a specialist healthcare centre that focuses on cell therapy, regenerative medicine and cutting-edge research.

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