Medcare Women & Children Hospital Offers Emerging Revolutionary Gene Therapy for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) in the UAE

Medcare Women & Children Hospital continues its pioneering work in the UAE by being the first hospital in the region to offer therapy for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a genetic neuromuscular disease that causes muscles to become weak. Beginning their work in this area in late 2020, Medcare has now successfully treated over 15 cases of affected children, some being residents of the UAE and others who have travelled from countries such as Iran, Turkey, Nepal, Romania, India, Philippines, and Ethiopia to receive treatment at Medcare Women & Children hospital in Dubai.


In line with the government’s vision to continue the efforts to enable Dubai to become a global health tourism destination and a gateway to the finest medical experts, Medcare Women & Children Hospital is recognized as an integral institution in Dubai for treating complex paediatrics cases. There are only a few centres globally that can offer gene therapy for such complex cases in children and Medcare Women & Children Hospital is one of them.


The hospital is well known for its highly specialized medical teams, state of the art equipment, and world class medical service for women and children.


Dr Shanila Laiju, Group CEO Medcare Hospitals & Medical Centres said:” As an organization dedicated to providing high quality medical treatment and clinical excellence in the UAE, Medcare has focused on caring for children with rare and complex conditions. It is both a responsibility and an honor for us to now be able to provide treatment opportunities for SMA and we are proud to be the first centre in the region which offers the gene to patients from around the world who come to Dubai looking for such treatment.  Also, the accessibility of Dubai to most parts of the world makes treatment possible for children across the globe.”


Commenting on the cause of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Dr Vivek Mundada, Consultant Paediatric Neurologist at Medcare Women & Children Hospital said that there are two copies of all the genes in our bodies. One comes from the father and one from the mother. People who inherit two faulty copies of the SMN1 gene (one from each parent) have SMA. People who inherit one faulty copy and one healthy copy of the SMN1 gene (one from each parent) are carriers of SMA. Around 1 in 40 people are carriers of SMA; carriers do not have SMA or any of its symptoms. The gene therapy for SMA is given in the blood, using a drug that consists of an inactive virus called AAV9 which holds the functional gene SMN1 which is missing in children with SMA.


Dr Vivek Mundada continued: “We adhere to the international standards of care for SMA patients as the team at Medcare Women & Children Hospital support parents even before travelling to the UAE to receive treatment providing online consultations, support with visas and hotels as well as transportation to and from the hospital. We will continue our work in the area of Spinal Muscular Atrophy to improve the quality of life for as many children as possible that suffer from this genetic disease”.


Children who have received this gene therapy at Medcare Women & Children Hospital have shown great improvement in their mobility and other physical activities. The infants who could previously only move the fingers of their hands are now able to lift their whole arms and have improved trunk movement. Even children with complex care needs like those who are ventilated through tracheostomy have received the gene therapy successfully at Medcare.


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