Forum to discuss stem cell research opportunities, challenges

February 5, 2012

Challenges and opportunities presented by stem cell research will be explored at a conference in Qatar by more than 250 participants, including ethicists and scientists.

Organisers of the Qatar International Conference on Stem Cell Science and Policy said that more than 45 national, regional and international institutes will present their views on stem cell research and its ethics at this February and have already submitted over 70 abstracts for the conference this month.

Themes include the therapeutic potential of stem cell research, the challenges presented by stem cell research in the context of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, the commercial applications of stem cell research, the ethics and ramifications for stem cell guidelines and policies, seen as one of the most important topics in the dialogue surrounding stem cell research.

“This is a unique opportunity for Qatar Foundation to continue the open dialogue it has established through its partnership with James A Baker III Institute and the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies on ethics in stem cell research,” Faisal Mohammad Al Suwaidi, Qatar Foundation President of Research and Development, said.

The Qatar International Conference on Stem Cell Science and Policy is the culmination of a series of initiatives developed through the tripartite partnership to develop best ethical practice in stem cell research in Qatar and across the region. Workshops with religious scholars in 2009 and a public forum in May 2010 were among the initiatives.

“We want to raise awareness about Qatar’s developments in stem cell research; however we also want to explore the ethical policy ramifications that come along with these developments,” Dr Khalid Al Subai, Qatar Foundation Director of Research Coordination and Compliance, said. “The Qatar International Conference on Stem Cell Science and Policy will invite scientists, ethicists and policy makers across Qatar, the region and the world to address the issues surrounding stem cell research and develop policy recommendations that account for ethical, religious and cultural factors,” he said.

Although stem cell science offers a number of potential benefits – with significant promise in developing new therapies for illnesses prevalent in the region, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease – it also raises many controversial and complex ethical and social questions.

The Qatar Supreme Council of Health has already begun the process of developing guidelines and policies to steer research in this field, but there is much left to be explored in a field that is still in its experimental stages.

In discussing the Islamic bioethics that permit regulated stem cell and other biomedical research, Dr. Hatem Al Karanshawy, Founding Dean of the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies said that “Islamic revelation began with the word ‘read:’ the first word of the Quran that the Prophet (PBUH) received from God.”

“One could not find a better explanation of Islamic civilization’s emphasis on learning and research, and on the exploration and investigation of every aspect of life from the atom and the single human cell to the entire universe,” he said. “Our participation in initiatives like this one emanates from that very spirit.”

The recent launch of Qatar Foundation’s Research Centre for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE) represents a continuation of the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies’ involvement in exploring the ethical aspects in biomedical research including stem cells.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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