Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre to begin trials for diabetes and MS treatments

Centre to test stem cell therapy to treat Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis

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Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre will begin trials of therapies to treat two of the biggest chronic health issues facing the UAE: diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Two different types of trial to treat Type 1 diabetes and MS are involved. They will explore therapeutic alternatives and analyse the efficacy of intervention.

UAE has, at 16.3 per cent, one of the world’s highest prevalence rates of diabetes, according to a report from the International Diabetes Federation last year.

This puts many of the UAE's residents at high risk of developing chronic health issues related to the disease, as well as increasing morbidity and mortality rates. Meanwhile, the prevalence of MS in the UAE is approximately 64 cases per 100,000 people, almost double the global average, according to a study by scientists at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City last year.

Dr Yendry Ventura, specialist in immunology and general manager of the centre, said the threat of each disease were compounded by a lack of therapeutic alternatives in the Emirates.

“The seminal ... clinical trials will provide new insights into the treatment of the diseases to both improve the quality of health care in the UAE and help raise awareness about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

Protocols for the trials are under review by the centre's ethics committee before they will be presented to the Department of Health Abu Dhabi for approval.

In conducting the trials, the centre will use extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP), a United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved therapy for to prevent the rejection of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.

The centre made headlines this year after it announced in May that it had developed a stem cell treatment that helped ease the symptoms of coronavirus.

Called UAECell19, the treatment involved extracting stem cells from patients’ blood and reintroducing them after “activating” them.

The cells were then nebulised - converted into a fine spray - and inhaled by the patient.

It has helped more than 5,000 patients recover from Covid-19.

In July, the centre launched the Abu Dhabi Bone Marrow Transplant programme, which treats blood cancer patients using stem cells. Four patients have successfully been treated to date.