Arab researchers have developed a new medical formula from camels' milk and urine for treating leukaemia, a blood cancer, that could also be developed to cure other types of cancer infecting the lung, liver and breast.
The experiments started at United Arab Emirates-based Sharjah University and completed at the Iraq-based Cancer Institute in Baghdad. The new medicine has been registered with the UK Patents Office.
Researchers tested the new drug on laboratory mice by injecting it for six months. They found the mice were still alive and their behaviour was the same as healthy ones. This was because the new drug carries 'smart cells' that can attack poisonous substances in the cancerous cells without producing any side-effects.
Also, the camel's immune system was rejuvenating itself every time they took samples of milk and urine, making it one of the strongest immune systems. Camel antibodies have several advantages, including their ability to reach tissues and cells not normally accessible and they are easier to manufacture.
As a result of the Arabian camel genome project, Saudi and Chinese scientists have managed for the first time to decode the entire genetic make-up of the single-humped camel, Camelus dromedarius, the omnipresent native of the Arabian peninsula.
In addition, Saudi scientists have identified novel or fast-evolving genes, in camels that have not been matched to a homologous sequence in other organisms, while Belgian researchers have created 'camelised' human antibodies that could be ideal for vaccine development from camel antibodies.
Hasan Out, a researcher in the Biotechnology Research Center, Natural Resources and Environment Research Institute at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said: "Understanding the genetic components of camel genome should help advances in camel production, which is an important source for meat, milk and other traditional needs.
"Moreover, through comparative genomics we may find biological insights regarding human health, such as the use of the unique immune system of the camel which possesses special heavy chain-only antibodies."
Morad Ahmed Morad, a professor of medicine at Tanta University, welcomed the new development involving the camel milk-based remedy and its genomic analysis.
"The initial scientific evidence might pave the way to transfer the camel from being the ship of the desert to the world medical ship for curing human diseases," Morad said.
"Unlocking the genetics underpinning the camel's immune system could promote and facilitate medical discoveries such as new vaccination approaches, novel therapeutic antibodies and small peptide-based therapy," he said.
The genome data could also help in understanding how the mammal produced its highly nutritious and medically valuable milk - which might help in fighting diseases such as Aids, alzheimer's and hepatitis C.
But Morad said the new medicine had only been tested on experimental mice and it remained to be seen what the effect would be of testing it with humans.