Monday 20 March 2023

Dr Charbel Khalil at Arab Health

Umbilical stem cells may be the ‘answer to a number of diseases’

DUBAI, February 2, 2023

Umbilical stem cell storage could provide the remedy to a significant number of diseases, according to a session hosted at Arab Health 2023 by Dr Charbel Khalil. 
“Umbilical cord stem cells are currently used to treat many life-threatening diseases, including cancer, blood disorders, immune disorders and metabolic diseases. One of the most interesting aspects of stem cells is that they rejuvenate. We have stem cells everywhere in the body, in every tissue,” said Khalil, who is Cellular Therapy Director at the Reviva stem cell platform for research and application centre and the Middle East Institute of Health University Hospital (MEIH). 
“The most effective way to capture stem cells is from the umbilical cords of newborn babies,” he said. 
Complex procedure
“Treating patients with bone marrow can be a very complex procedure. Only 0.1% of stem cells can be found in the bone marrow, and for this process, we have to mobilise the stem cells and stimulate them to go into the peripheral blood. This is followed by cryopreservation and high-dose chemotherapy, after which the cells are thawed and infused. Capturing stem cells at birth through the umbilical cord is providing a highly effective alternative to this,” he explained. 
A process that was discovered in the 1960s, the first successful umbilical cord blood transplant took place in 1988 in France when a five-year-old boy was cured of Fanconi anaemia using stem cells from his sister’s umbilical cord. In 2012, the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Sir John B Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka ‘for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent’, further cementing the position of regenerative medicine as a groundbreaking science.  
Umbilical cord blood is a viable source of three types of stem cells – Hematopoietic stem cells, Mesenchymal stem cells and Epithelial progenitor stem cells. Combined, these stem cells can develop into all types of blood cells, including white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets, and make and repair skeletal tissue. 
Painless and non-invasive
The process of capturing stem cells from the umbilical cord is painless and non-invasive. Taking place immediately after birth, the cells are processed by a laboratory team in a crucial 12-hour process to ensure a maximum cell count is maintained. Once captured, the current evidence shows that umbilical stem cells can be used for up to a minimum of 25 years, but this may prove to be longer. If needed in the future, these stem cells can be used by the original donor, their relatives or even the wider community.
Through cord blood networking, more than 43,000 transplants globally have given patients a second chance at life. Clinical trials are currently exploring the use of umbilical cord stem cells for the treatment of 120 diseases, and there have been some exciting developments recently in their use for neurological diseases, eye conditions and infertility. 
Arab Health, the Middle East’s largest healthcare exhibition and congress, concludes today, February 2 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.-- TradeArabia News Service


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