Expecting a child is like witnessing a miracle taking place, from the moment the child is just a tiny zygote, until it is a fully-grown bundle of joy in the arms of its parents.
One of the facets of the Egyptian character has always been to plan for the security and future of the child from the day he is born.
But a recent increase in awareness and openness towards what is happening worldwide has introduced a new idea, which met with scepticism at first, before it became a real trend.
A mother now expects another person in the delivery room along with the doctor and nursing team: the umbilical cord blood doctor.
"The concept of umbilical cord blood banking has been recognised throughout the world since 1998," says Dr Abdel Meguid Ramzy, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Cairo University and CEO of BabyCell EGYPT.
"It started in Germany and the United States before spreading to other regions in the world and began in the facilities offering stem-cell separation from bone marrow to treat leukemia and other blood diseases,” Ramzy explains.
However, with the spread of bone marrow transplant units and the growing enthusiasm over stem cell technology and the hope it offers of treating diseases that are otherwise hard to treat, the concept of extracting stem cells from the blood in the umbilical cord developed as a more available source, basically harmless and more importantly, an otherwise discarded rich source of stem cells.
The first service in Egypt started in 2006 and stored the blood abroad, then in 2007 a group of Egyptian doctors came together and started the first “Egyptian Umbilical Cord Blood Bank”.
It operates a state-of-the-art robotic arm and a computerised storage/freezing module. The service was licensed by the Ministry of Health in 2009 and has been growing ever since. It has collected over 500 samples to date and the number is growing exponentially.
Some patients do not trust Egyptian services, especially as umbilical cord blood banks abroad are well-established and have a well-documented track record of storage and retrieval of the stored stem cells, which are shipped and used anywhere in the world.
“I have dealt with both options and believe there is increasing trust in the local facilities, especially as we are a few months away from international accreditation,” said Ramzy.
Egyptian scientists have been publishing their work in regenerative medicine since the early days of the new century and their enthusiasm in the field of stem cells is growing rapidly, and they are now working in collaboration with scientists in European and US universities.
The time may have come for parents-to-be to consider the progress in medical research and give their children a gift that could prove to be priceless in the future.