UAE hails success of first bone marrow transplant

The launch of a bone marrow transplant programme opens up the opportunity for Emiratis and residents to secure treatment at home without the need to travel overseas

The UAE is celebrating the success of its first bone marrow transplant.

Typically used to treat patients with blood and cancer disorders , the landmark procedure was carried out on a patient with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.

Cancer is the third-highest cause of death in the UAE. Patients seeking cell therapy and regenerative medicine often have to travel abroad for treatment.

News of the successful transplant, which was the result of collaboration between Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre and Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, represents a major breakthrough for cancer patients living in the UAE who can now seek treatment closer to home to remain with family.

The milestone announcement comes as the centre launched the Abu Dhabi Bone Marrow Transplant programme on Monday.

"It fills us with great pride to be part of a first for the country and to make such a life-saving treatment available and accessible to those who need it here," said Dr Fatima Alkaabi, executive Director of the Abu Dhabi Bone Marrow Transplant programme.

"We are very grateful for the support and collaboration of SKMC in making this opportunity possible."

Bone marrow transplants are one of the most established stem cell-based therapies in the treatment of cancer, particularly blood cancers.

The unique procedure developed by the centre involved harvesting peripheral blood stem cells from the patient, who then underwent high-dose chemotherapy to eradicate all cancerous cells and most of the bone marrow.

The harvested stem cells were then infused back into the bloodstream, where they restore the destroyed cells and over the course of two weeks restart the production of healthy non-malignant blood cells.

"The patient is basically without an immune system while waiting for the transfused cells to take effect and must remain in isolation under the strictest infection control guidelines," said Dr Yendry Ventura, general manager of the stem cell centre and Abu Dhabi bone marrow transplant programme director.

"Since we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, we took additional precautions to ensure the best outcome possible for all involved."

Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre has been a driving force behind medical research in the country, including playing a key role in the ongoing fight against Covid-19.

Earlier last month, the team announced the results of the trial of its treatment for Covid-19 patients, branded UAECell19.

After opening in December, the centre has already received international press coverage over to its research into a treatment for the virus.

Their groundbreaking work has involved taking stem cells from a patient’s blood and returning them, via a nebuliser, as a fine mist to the lungs.

There they help regenerate lung cells and improve the body's immune response by preventing an overreaction to the infection that can damage healthy cells.

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