• Scientists at work in the laboratory of the Cell Therapy Center at the University of Jordan. (Anthony Pinda)Source: Anthony Pinda
A university laboratory in Jordan is combatting fear about stem cell research and treating patients for a wide range of ailments.
By
Anthony Pinda

Source:
The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour
17 Nov 2016 - 2:59 AM  UPDATED 17 Nov 2016 - 2:57 AM

Professor Abbadi is enjoying the third love of his professional life.

First, he was enthralled by medicine, then it developed into a love of haematology. Now, it’s all about stem cell research.

He describes it as a “passion”.

Professor Abdalla Awidi Abbadi is the director of the Cell Therapy Center (CTC), which is pioneering stem cell research and treatment in the Middle East.

On the busy Jordan University campus, where students are working in the centre’s laboratory, Dr Abbadi tells SBS that stem cell therapy “is going to be the future”.

But it’s a topic that’s still widely misunderstood, and part of Dr Abbadi’s role is to dispel the community’s concerns and to show the benefits of the centre’s work.

“We need to remove the fear and misconception from the public that all stem cell therapy involves taking cells from one patient and using them in the body of another patient,” he tells SBS.

The centre aims to become a hub for stem cell research in a region that’s not generally known for pioneering medical advancements.

Dr Abbadi believes that if this fear can be removed, then the public’s support will increase, and this will lead to greater access to non-embryonic adult stem cells, which he explains is the main source of therapeutic cells.

Professor Abdalla Awidi Abbadi is the director of the Cell Therapy Center in Jordan.

The centre, which was inaugurated by Jordan’s King Abdullah in May this year, aims to become a hub for stem cell research in a region that’s not generally known for pioneering medical advancements.

And, interestingly, 85 per cent of the students at the centre are women.

The CTC is described as a “good setup” by Australian researcher Dr Alexandra Harvey of Melbourne University, who says it differs from many other operations around the world because it has “certain regulatory mechanisms in place to have clinical trials funded and performed safely”.

“The issue with that of course is that a lot of these clinics aren’t government-regulated like they are in Jordan, which is one of the positive aspects of their stem cell research program,” Dr Harvey says.

The centre has wide research interests and is harnessing stem cells to treat a multitude of medical conditions.

“We need to provide solutions for problems which under current medical practice have no solution.”

“We recently transplanted epithelial cells of the cornea in a patient who lost her eyesight as a result of a chemical accident,” says Dr Abbadi.

The process involved forming epithelial tissue in a laboratory with cells taken from the patient’s healthy eye, which were then surgically transplanted into the one that was damaged.

He says the operation has given the patient hope that her sight will regenerate, unlike the prognosis she was previously given by her doctors, who had originally told her she would be better off having an artificial eye implanted.

The centre also focuses on developing skin cells for treating burns and malformations, and human bone cells to treat a wide range of conditions.

The majority of the projects at CTC involve the extraction of autologous cells, which, as Dr Abbadi explains, are cells that are “taken from a patient’s own body”. They can be extracted from bone marrow and other parts of the body, such as healthy eyes.

Scientists have created a new kind of human stem cell
The breakthrough could produce new cancer therapies, aid infertility and help us to understand why we reproduce sexually.

“We need to provide solutions for problems which under current medical practice have no solution,” Dr Abbadi tells SBS.

“Our aim is to provide a cure once and for all.”

The CTC has grown from a temporary facility to a full-time operation and is now developing a reputation across the region and further afield.

Dr Harvey, who is also a fellow at Stem Cells Australia, says the centre is not like the “rogue” private clinics that are making promises without specific scientific data to back up claims.

“We will be able to help many people,” Dr Abbadi says.

 

The author travelled to Jordan as part of The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour. Read more stories form this series:

The Middle East’s first self-defence gym for women
She Fighter is empowering its students through martial arts, with a mission to end domestic violence in Jordan, and a letter of approval from Barack Obama.
The Arab cooking school keeping a grandmother’s recipes alive
Three sisters have been carrying on the tradition of their grandmother’s Jordanian recipes.
Meet the people restoring Madaba’s magnificent mosaics
Jordan has a rich mosaic making tradition, dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods. There are thousands of sites, posing huge conservation challenges for a small institute charged with the job of training people to protect them.
Desert cultures connect through art
A small gallery in Amman offers locals and tourists a glimpse into contemporary Australian and Jordanian art.
Breaking down cultural barriers through skateboarding
Jordan’s first skate park is building human connections between Jordanian youth and young refugees.
 

More on stem cell treatment
Human stem cell with half a genome could help infertile couples
The breakthrough could produce new cancer therapies, aid infertility and help us to understand why we reproduce sexually.
Stem cell therapy may soon repair damaged hearts
Hope is on the horizon for heart attack patients and Australians at risk of heart failure, as medical researchers investigate the promise of stem cell therapy in repairing damaged hearts.
Doctors hope to use stem cells and 3D printing to regrow bone
A West Australian team of biomedical engineers, surgeons and scientists are hopeful they can grow bone to replace missing pieces of a human skull using a 3D printer, bioceramics and stem cells.

The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour is a joint UTS and Swinburne University project, supported by the Commonwealth through the Council for Australian-Arab Relations, which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.