Qatar is forging ahead on stem cell research with one of the most permissible policies set down. The transparent guidelines that explain almost every aspect of the research even allows embryonic stem cell research which is still a controversy or illegal in many parts of the world.
“Stem cell research is one of the ways to show the world what Qatar can do for the humanity. Stem cell studies are one of the most ancient and the most modern field of research,” said Dr Mohammed Fathy Saoud, President, Qatar Foundation, speaking at the region’s first-ever Public Forum on Stem Cell Policy, here yesterday.
“Qatar’s policy clearly underlines the interaction between religion and science. Every religion supports any initiative that is for the good of the humanity. Hence Qatar is investing in this civilised project that will look into extraction of stem cell from various sources and research on it for a better tomorrow, and thus invest in knowledge building.”
Stem cells are characterised by the ability to renew themselves and differentiate into a diverse range of specialised cell types. Embryonic stem cells are derived from the inner cell mass during the early stages of embryonic development. Hence most of these stem cell researches require the destruction of a human embryo, or a life according to anti- embryonic stem cell research groups.
However, Qatar’s stem cell policy supports embryonic stem cell researches on given conditions. The base line for Qatar’s policy is the source of the embryonic stem cell which could be from embryos discarded after In-Vitro fertilisation (IVF) or those which are aborted.
Qatar’s policy, will not be against those who believe that embryonic stem cell research violates the sanctity of life. IVF programmes worldwide leads to waste of human embryos. When fertilisation is done in the laboratories, many embryos are formed out of which only the best are implanted into the womb. Hundreds of embryos are discarded each day. The researches in Qatar can utilise these embryos which are usually thrown away.
In most of the other countries, embryonic stem cells create wide uproar and protests. In the United States, former President George Bush had limited embryonic stem cell research to existing strains and prohibited scientists from developing new ones from embryos left over from IVF. On March 9, 2009, President Barack Obama lifted the eight-year ban on federal funding of embryonic stem research. However, according to reports, even after one year since the ban has been lifted, some scientists are complaining that so far the new policy is more of a burden than a boon to their work.
This could be one of the reasons that Weill Cornell Medical College plans to establish a stem-cell research unit in Qatar.
Stem cell research and regenerative medicine represent hope to millions of people, and Qatar aspires to fully deliver on its potential.
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