UAE: First-ever paediatric bone marrow transplant performed in Abu Dhabi

UAE: First-ever paediatric bone marrow transplant performed in Abu Dhabi

A private hospital in Abu Dhabi has successfully performed a bone marrow transplant from a donor to a child. This is the first paediatric bone marrow transplant performed in the UAE.

According to doctors, the highly advanced life-saving allogeneic stem cell bone marrow transplant was performed on a five-year-old girl from Uganda. Jordana found her donor in her 10-year-old sister.

She has been suffering from sickle cell disease since birth due to which she was regularly admitted to the hospital.

Doctors in Uganda advised the family to take Jordana for advanced care to Burjeel Medical City (BMC) in Abu Dhabi’s Mohamed Bin Zayed City

Speaking to the media, Florence, Jordana’s mother, said that the doctors back in Uganda advised the family to come to the UAE’s Burjeel Medical City. After conducting some research about the hospital, she decided to visit the country with her daughter and family. 


What is Sickle cell disease?

It is a genetic disorder which results in an abnormality in the haemoglobin found in red blood cells. It terms the red blood cells as sickle-shaped, resulting in several complications including anaemia, swelling in the hands and feet, frequent pain, acute chest syndrome, and sometimes stroke.

Doctors suggest that the only cure for sickle cell disease is a bone marrow transplant.

It came as a sigh of relief for Jordana's family as doctors at BMC found a full match donor in her sister. She was also flown to Abu Dhabi for the procedure.

“Jolina, our elder daughter, became the donor for the transplant. She was very positive when she came to know that she can be the donor,” the mother said.

Speaking about the surgery, Dr Zainul Aabideen, head of department of paediatric haematology and oncology at BMC, stated this prior to the procedure, the patient was suffering immensely. The entire care team at the hospital along with her parents expressed delight that the transplant could relieve this pain in her life.


How does the surgery take place?

Under the allogeneic stem cell transplant, healthy blood stem cells are transferred from a donor to replace a patient’s diseased or damaged bone marrow. It is a highly complex specialised procedure under which stem cells from the donor’s blood, bone marrow within a donor’s hipbone, or blood of a donated umbilical cord are collected before transferring them to the patient. After an intense series of chemotherapy or radiation (also called the “conditioning” process) to ensure that the diseased cells are fully killed, the body is prepared to receive the healthy donor stem cells.

After infusion into the bloodstream, the donor cells start developing new blood cells within the patient’s bone marrow. The treatment also requires several weeks of close medical care and attention after the transplant. Furthermore, regular blood test checkups are conducted to monitor the body’s response to the new cells.

As per reports, Jordana is recovering well and is expected to discharge from the hospital in the next few days.

“They have provided all the care needed. We felt at home being here. We also want to thank the UAE rulers and authorities for allowing us to come here for the treatment and for providing world-class treatment,” Florence said.


Notably, the integrated bone marrow transplant unit was launched at BMC in September 2021. Currently, the hospital is performing bone marrow transplantation for another child from Iraq, who is suffering from thalassemia major. It is a severe blood disease in children which requires a regular blood transfusion. The only curative treatment for this life-threatening chronic disease is bone marrow transplantation.

Speaking about the unit, Professor Humaid Alshamsi, director of VPS Oncology at BMC, stated that it was a "very challenging job” to set up the bone marrow transplant facility for the first time in the UAE, particularly amid the pandemic circumstances.

He hailed the consistent commitment displayed by the medical team of the hospital which allowed them to set up the first and most comprehensive bone marrow transplant unit.

"Earlier, our patients needed to travel abroad for this highly specialised treatment. The recent success of the stem cell transplants at our institution will provide new hope to the many patients who will benefit from similar care," Professor Alshamsi added.

Meanwhile, BMC is planning to further expand their bone marrow transplant capabilities across the region in the coming time with the aim to continue the provision of top healthcare services to people suffering from chronic and life-altering conditions. 

SOURCE: Khaleej Times


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