March 1, 2024

Embryonic stem cell research thriving in Iran

lack of ethical objections could give competitive edge
Iran is becoming a stem cell powerhouse, even though its scientists
have to obtain some of their equipment on the black market because of
political and economical sanctions. According to a recent survey
of Iranian stem cell science published by two researchers at Harvard
University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, scientists at
theRoyan Institute have cloned a sheep, developed stem cell lines and differentiated them into pancreatic, heart and liver cells.

Although the government has banned human cloning, there is broad
support for embryonic stem cell research. Shi’ite clerics argue that
this is
permissible under Islamic law because the foetus is given a soul at 120
days. AyatollahKhamenei often cites the Koran’s emphasis on
preventing human illness and suffering as evidence that stem cell
research and Islam are compatible. "In 2002, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
, publicly supported human embryo research, suggesting Iran’s goal
should be to become the ‘leader of science’ in the Middle East in the
next 20 years," says the report.

A major problem faced by
stem cell researchers is the brain drain of talent to Western
countries. However, the report argues that Iran’s lack of moral and
ethical objections to the research gives it a comparative advantage
which the government should exploit. ~ Washington Times, Apr 15