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Experts at Arab Health reveal umbilical cord stem cells show growing promise

Experts at Arab Health reveal umbilical cord stem cells show growing promise for the treatment of disease

  • Umbilical cord stem cells have been successfully used since 1988

  • Up to 2020, they have been used to treat 80 malignant and non-malignant diseases

  • To date, more than 43,000 patients have received life-changing cord blood transplantations

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 2 February 2023: Umbilical stem cell storage could provide the answer to a significant number of diseases, according to a session hosted at Arab Health by Dr Charbel Khalil, Cellular Therapy Director at the Reviva stem cell platform for research and application centre and the Middle East Institute of Health University Hospital (MEIH). One of the region’s leading practitioners in stem cells, Khalil shone the spotlight on umbilical stem cells and the crucial role they are playing in disease treatment around the world.

“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. “The most effective way to capture stem cells is from the umbilical cords of newborn babies.”

He added, “Treating patients with bone marrow can be a very complex procedure. Only 0.1 per cent 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.”

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.

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, 2 February at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

For more information, please visit or to register as media, click here.


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