Saturday, April 18, 2009

Washington Post: Iran at the forefront of stem cell research

[hyperlinks are provided by naj]

"Though the world's attention has focused on Iran's advancing nuclear program, Iranian scientists have moved to the forefront in embryonic stem cell research, according to a recent joint study by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."

Controversial in the United States, embryonic stem cell research was embraced in 2002 by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's conservative religious leader. President Obama has recently adopted a similar policy, reversing restrictions that George W. Bush's administration imposed because of the implications for destroying potential human lives.
"Islam is very compatible with the modern sciences," said Hassan Ashktorab of the Howard University Cancer Center. "Policies that may be classified as liberal in the American political system seem to be common sense to Iranian politicians."

Ayatollah Khamenei has often spoken of launching Iran to the scientific vanguard of the Muslim world, and scientific achievement is important to Iranian national pride. During the Persian Empire - a designation for Iran used until the early 20th century - Iran was a crossroads of medical advancements and established itself as a center of world learning.

The 1979 Islamic revolution triggered a massive brain drain, slowing Iranian advances in science, Mr. Ashktorab said. "There are many renowned scientific intellectuals around the world who are originally Iranian, yet they have adopted a new nationality in the country to which they have migrated," he said.

ButAli Khademhosseini, an Iranian immigrant to the U.S. who co-wrote the recent study on stem cells for the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, said brain drain is "a more generic issue in Iran" and has not prevented Iranian scientists from making advances in certain areas, such as stem cell research.

"The sciences in Iran have a lot of committed and passionate people, so the brain drain doesn't necessarily affect this field," he said.

In 1988, after the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, Iran began to heavily invest in the sciences. According to the study by Mr. Khademhosseini and David Morrison, government spending on science rose from 0.2 percent of Iranian gross domestic product in 1990, or about $232 million, to 0.65 percent in 2005, the equivalent of $1.2 billion.

In 2008, Press TV, Iran's state-sponsored English language international news channel, reported that the Iranian government planned to invest $2.5 billion in stem cell research alone over a period of five years.

Iran's stem cell research is centered at the Royan Institute, in the foothills of the Alborz mountains in northern Tehran.

Founded in 1991 as an infertility clinic, it was expanded in 1998 into a Ministry of Health-approved cell research center. According to the Royan Institute Web site, it hosts departments in six fields: stem cells, embryology, gynecology, genetics, andrology and epidemiology.

Iran is in the top 10 of countries in the world that produce, culture and freeze human embryonic stem cells, according to Mr. Khademhosseini's study.

This places Iran in the company of countries including Sweden, Japan, the United States, Australia, Britain, India, South Korea and Singapore.

Royana, the name given to the first cloned sheep in the Middle East, was born Sept. 30, 2006, in the Iranian city of Esfahan. Iranian scientists have also identified and isolated human kidney stem cells and cultured and produced differentiated liver tissues in mice.

Despite Iran's conservative Islamic rule, there is broad government approval for embryonic stem cell research, which Muslim clerics say is permissible under Islamic law. Shi'ite Muslim scholars believe that the fetus is given a soul at 120 days, before which abortion is permissible when there is a physical or emotional threat to the mother - thus avoiding the abortion debates common in the United States.

Ayatollah Khamenei often cites the Koran's emphasis on preventing human illness and suffering as evidence that stem cell research and Islam are compatible. Limits do exist: Iran's supreme leader has warned Iranian scientists to be careful that producing identical parts of human beings does not lead to producing a human being, as human cloning is not accepted - a policy shared by the Obama administration.

Although Iran's progress has been noteworthy, political unrest between Iran and the West has been an impediment. Sanctions directed against Iran's nuclear and missile programs have lessened the availability of other scientific supplies and equipment primarily manufactured in the U.S. Many Iranian scientists depend on the black market to acquire the equipment necessary for common scientific practices, though at a higher cost.

Mr. Khademhosseini said that despite these problems, he is optimistic about the future. Iranian "research is improving; there is support from the general public, as well as the government. It definitely looks bright."


Anonymous said...

When we customarily shout "Death to America" we would be stupid not to expect Americans to try to harm us.

In regards to stem cell research - I am opposed to it if it uses cells obtained from aborted fetuses. That is against human dignity "keramat". The Islamic Republic is morally wrong to permit it.

I am also against organ selling - it is immoral; just like surrogate parenthood and against Islam.

I am powerless to make it illegal to sell kidney's - average age of a kidney seller is 25. The buyers take advantage of the weak circumstances of the sellers.

It is a shame and blight on Islamic Iran.

Ya Ali Madad

pen Name

Naj said...

I don't have an opinion about "morality" of things; but i disapprove of organ sales as well.

I will not buy an organ for myself. But, maybe if i have a child in distress i would. i don't know; I cannot judge! In these matters, no "general" rule applies.

That "death to America" chanting is so distasteful ... i wish there was a religious decree against it. It is harming Iran.

an average patriot said...

I think that is great. It stupefies me how we have been kept in the dark as to anything Iran. We know so little about Iran. Naj everything I know I think, I get from you!

Anonymous said...

Yes, and when they label us "Axis of Evil" we get offended.

It is stupid.

Unfortunately, there are a very many foolish men (males) in Iran and some of them are in positions of power.

But most men (males) are fools anyway.

pen Name

Naj said...


I am happy to help the knowledge. Since early days in school, I came to one realization:

Knowledge must be sought. It is never given. States, and education systems, cannot be fully depended on for, not necessarily out of malice, rather out of resourcelessness operate within limits.

You are a knowledge seeker :)

yup; the genre of george bush is not unique. world is full of idiots of that kind and we sure do have plenty of such dumbasses in Iran.

Hey what do you think of election?

Anonymous said...

I expect Dr. Ahmadinejad to win re-election.

pen Name

Anonymous said...