With the opening a new DHA-approved stem cell and regenerative medical center in Emirates Hospital Jumeirah, a new era of medicine is entering Dubai
16 July 2018| Last updated on 16 July 2018
Stem cell treatment has the potential to cure multiple diseases, and the procedure itself is non-invasive and safe.
It offers patients the choice of avoiding surgeries, aiding in the long healing process and showcases a list of successes in rejuvenated and cosmetic medicine. Now more easily accessible for UAE residents, would stem cell treatments become a new normal?
What are stem cells and stem cell therapy?
Recent news about stem cells and stem cell treatments are hitting headlines quite often these days. Knowing what all this hype is about is a good idea not only for conversation's sake but also to understand all the potential benefits and hazards associated with stem cell treatments.
What are stem cells?
In every living organism, systematically - throughout life - new cells are formed, which then mature, differentiate into more specialized cells, and, finally after a specific time recorded in their genetic material, die. Cells that provide new cells in place of the dead ones are known as stem cells. Stem cells are primitive, non-specialized cells, which have enormous potential for multiplication and a unique ability to convert into specialized cells to form tissue.
Thanks to this unique feature, stem cells have been used in medicine for years in order to rebuild or replace damaged cells. Stem cells can be found, for example, in umbilical cord blood, in bone marrow, or in peripheral blood collected from donors.
What is stem cell therapy?
Regenerative treatment, or stem cell therapy, is a type of treatment that restores cellular function by enabling the body to repair, replace and regenerate damaged, aging, or diseased cells, tissues, and organs.
Bone marrow transplant is the most widely used stem cell therapy, and has been carried out since 1956. This treatment is often used to treat leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma, as well as a range of other diseases that affect a patient’s blood system.
Stem cell transplantation from umbilical cord blood is a natural consequence of bone marrow transplantation. Umbilical cord blood transplantation requires less tissue compliance than bone marrow, so it’s easier and faster to match it with a patient in need. These cells usually do not contain cancer cells so there is less chance of complications after the procedure.
Stem cells are collected from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord blood in a safe and painless process that usually takes less than 5 minutes. A sample of the umbilical cord blood is then sent to the laboratory, undergoes processing and gets frozen in cryogenic storage tanks for long-term preservation.
Another type of regenerative treatment is on the rise. Stem cells that are derived from a patient’s own fat cells, also called Adipose Derived Stem Cells, may potentially be suitable for therapeutic and regenerative treatments. For now, use of ADSC is limited to rejuvenating and skin lifting treatments, as well as in orthopedics via local injections directly into body tissue (eg. knee and hip joints).
What kind of diseases can be treated with stem cells?
Numerous studies have indicated that stem cell treatments can be potentially beneficial in the treatment of chronic pain conditions, cancer, hereditary diseases and many others. These include:
- Chronic and acute leukemias
- Diseases caused by defective stem cells such as aplastic anemia or PNH
- Various types of anemia
- Diseases associated with impaired function or lack of enzymes
- Hereditary disorders of the immune system
- Histiocyte diseases
- Phagocytic disease
- Other malignant tumors such as breast or kidney cancer
A number of clinics around the world are also using stem cell therapy to aid chronic pain and as an alternative to orthopedic surgeries. Some of the ailments that can be treated with stem cell therapy are:
- Degenerative joint disease
- Bone union disorders
- Tennis and golfer's elbow
- Muscle and tendon injuries
- Pain in the spine and joints
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
Is stem cell therapy safe?
A commonly-asked question when it comes to stem cells is, “But is it safe"? It’s important to keep in mind that many of the treatments mentioned in this article are still in the clinical trial stages. Even though the stem cell treatments sound promising and have the potential of transforming the future of medicine, it’s still important to seek places that have proper regulatory approval, such as the newly DHA-approved stem cell therapy clinic in Dubai.
As for now, the most extensively used stem cell treatment is stem cell transplantation, such as bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplantations. Such treatments treat certain blood and immune system disorders, or aim to rebuild the blood system after treatments for certain types of cancer.
We should also note here that it is important to be wary of beauty stem cell treatments and products, as they are not the same as clinical treatments and using them can lead to unexpected side effects.
What is the cost of stem cell treatments?
Another common concern about stem cell treatments is its cost. There is a certain dose of uncertainty when it comes to prices and insurance coverage for these treatments.
While it’s hard to find the exact prices as costs vary from country to country, clinic to clinic, and will also depend on the type of the treatment you're seeking, stem cell therapy is considered expensive.
However, when looked at the price from another perspective, stem cell therapy can be considered more favorable compared to other treatments.
With the rise of people preserving their baby’s umbilical cord blood, the potential for storing it for over 20 years, as well as the reduction in tissue compliance between donors, it’s now easier to find matching donors. Another plus side is that the procedure doesn’t hurt!
If surgery is needed, stem cell therapy could save a patient weeks, if not months, of recuperation time. The hidden cost of surgery and long regeneration time can result in lost wages, prescription medication costs, together with potentially exceeding one’s medical insurance plan's coverage limits if extra surgeries are needed.
As stem cell procedures are usually quite quick, patients would not always have to be admitted into hospital, but would instead undergo regular medical examinations.
Do medical plans cover stem cell therapy?
More and more insurers are starting to include stem cell treatments in their plans as they are increasingly seeing the need to keep up with the latest medical trends, and are more closely following the clinical trials of different stem cell treatments. For now, insurers are unlikely to pay for any stem cell treatment which is considered experimental, or not officially approved by a country’s medical organization.
This rule does not apply to standardized stem cell therapy procedures such as bone marrow transplants for leukemia patients, which are typically covered by international medical plans. Your safest option is always to call your insurer or broker before agreeing to any procedure to double check if such treatments will be covered.
If you are interested in learning more, or wondering if there is a possibility to add benefits to your current international medical plan, contact one of Pacific Prime Dubai’s healthcare advisors by clicking here.
As an international health insurance broker, Pacific Prime Dubai works with a wide range of insurers and will find the most suitable plan for your needs.