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Qatar discusses stem cell research ethics and policy


Qatar International Conference on Stem Cell Science and Policy
           © Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla

This is a guest blog post from Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla, one of Nature Middle East‘s freelancers currently covering the Qatar International Conference on Stem Cell Science and Policy in Doha.

Qatar opened its International Conference on Stem Cell Science and Policy on 27 February at the Qatar National Conference Centre. The conference has attracted over 400 delegates, and boasts an impressive line-up of speakers, including physiology and medicine Nobel LaureateDavid Baltimore.

In his keynote address, Abdelali Haoudi, vice president of research and development at Qatar Foundation (QF) stressed that stem cell research is a top priority for biomedical science in Qatar. He expressed his hope that the conference will set the stage for future developments and achievements.

Edward P Djerejian, founding director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Texas, praised the partnership his institute formed with QF as one that bridges the gap between policy and practice. He noted the significance of the religious freedom and funding for science in the region, at a time when the USA is seeing potential further funding cutbacks, and the use of embryonic stem cells is more restricted.

Baltimore opened with a discussion on the use of hematopoietic cells as a treatment for cancer and HIV/AIDS. The thoroughly researched presentation was well received by the audience, with one delegate calling it “groundbreaking.”

Gerald Schatten spoke of the scientific legacy of Islam which set the foundation for medical research, quoting verses from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, that explained human embryonic formation and birth.

The closing session of the first day had four scientists from the Middle East present their stem cell research, which highlighted the disparities across the region on stem cell research restrictions. The two scientists from Iran and Saudi Arabia faced no restrictions on embryonic cell research. However, Jeremie Ibrizie of Weill Cornell College in Qatar (WCMC-Q), said his department is struggling with restrictive US laws which prevent them from carrying out certain research in Doha. Turkan Elden from Turkey said they’re expecting a restrictive law passed by the Turkish ministry of health in 2005 to soon be lifted, allowing more opportunities to engage in stem cell research.

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