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Bahrain plans stem cell unit.

Byline: Manama

Bahrain is investigating the possibility of setting up a Stem Cell Centre to treat patients with diabetes, it has emerged.

Health Ministry public relations director Adel Ali Abdulla said a team of experts from Hamburg, Germany, would arrive in Manama next Tuesday to conduct an initial study on the country's needs and suggest ways to set up the facility.

'There has been a plan at the ministry for several years and we have now decided to activate it,' he told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News.

'The experts, who are from a well-known company specialising in stem cell research, will hold discussions with officials at the ministry, other stakeholders and Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) doctors who manage and treat patients with diabetes.'

Abdulla declined to name the company involved, saying it would only be revealed once a deal has been signed and the go-ahead for the survey given.

'They will also hold discussions with Health Minister Dr Faisal Al Hamer during which several decisions are expected to be taken,' he said.

Abdulla said a decision to set up the centre had been taken after successive studies showed rates of diabetes in Bahrain and the rest of the Gulf were increasing.

'We are considered a wealthy people who are increasingly suffering from lifestyle diseases, especially obesity and diabetes,' he said.

'Alarmed governments all over the GCC are now scrambling to counteract the high-calorie fast-food culture that has gripped their nations, launching nutritional awareness programmes, encouraging children to play sports and setting up health check-up booths in shopping malls.

'We have started similar exercises in Bahrain but we need also to treat the condition.

'Adolescents as young as 15 and 16 are developing diabetes.'

Abdulla said there had been a surge in obesity among younger people, especially teenagers in Bahrain and said nearly 15 per cent of the population has diabetes.

'During a recent survey, a sample of 1,769 people, showed that 16.8 per cent of women and 11.7 per cent of men had diabetes,' he said.

Abdulla said also of concern was the fact that there was an increasing number of people suffering from what is known as 'diabetic foot', which leads to dozens of amputations each year.

'The condition, which results in lack of feeling in the foot due to damaged nerve endings and inadequate blood flow, is a direct result of diabetes,' he said.

'Wounds and ulcers that are left untreated could lead to infection in the foot and amputation if the infection further deteriorates.'

Abdulla said an experimental stem cell treatment in Britain has reportedly found that patients with Type 1 diabetes could go for as long as four years without insulin injections.

'The project with 23 patients found most were able to produce their own insulin after a transplant of stem cells from their own bone marrow and even those who suffered a relapse needed less insulin than before,' he said.- TradeArabia News Service

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Publication:TradeArabia (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:May 19, 2009
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