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.
Stem cells have been shown to have significant capability to develop into a plethora of different cell types and work as a repair system to replenish cells with specialized functions.
“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.”
After Barack Obama’s victory in the U.S. presidential elections, the economic community, in the middle of a recession and the worst financial crisis in the past decades, continues to hold its breath. The Democrat’s victory induce change and potentially more difficult times for the energy, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, and defense sectors, while the biotechnology and alternative energy sectors could be strengthened by the outcome of the elections. Obama has promised to increase investments in wind and solar energy and to spend 150 billion dollars in 10 years to hasten the development of hybrid automobiles and to increase the use of alternative energy on an “industrial scale”.
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A stem cell injection bound to create a stir is about to take place. For the first time ever the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (the United States government agency regulating scientific research) has authorized a company to transfer embryonic stem cells to patients paralyzed by spinal trauma. It will be the first procedure of its kind after newly inaugurated President Barack Obama promised to remove limits on financing for embryonic stem cell research imposed by George Bush in 2001.
The details of the initiative are beginning to take form, explained Thomas Okarma, President and CEO of Geron Corporation, the biotechnology company that was given the go ahead by the FDA, speaking in a CNN interview, explaining that volunteer testing will already begin this summer. Eight or ten patients with recent damage to their spinal cord and completely paralyzed from their third to tenth vertebra will be injected with embryonic stem cells. Using totipotent cells manipulated in the lab, researchers have developed cells called oligodendrocytes which play an important role in nerve transmission and are able to rebuild myelin, a protective sheath that covers nerves.
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A law has been proposed again to the U.S. Senate to allow for federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Democratic Senator Tom Harkin and Republican colleague Arlen Specter declared that the proposal allows for federal funds to finance research done using embryonic stem cells derived from leftover embryos from fertility clinics.
“It is the same bill proposed and approved by the House and the Senate in 2007, but vetoed by President George W. Bush,” was read in their statement to the press.
President Barack Obama promised to eliminate limits on federal funding imposed on research.
“For too long politics have slowed research on treatments that could save the lives of many citizens. President Barack Obama has promised to eliminate the restrictions imposed by Bush, and I hope that he does so soon. Furthermore, I hope this is protected by a federal law so it will not be affected by future changes in the administration,” added Harkin.
The proposed law is also supported by Democratic Senators Edward Kennedy and Dianne Feinstein, and Republican Orrin Hatch.
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THE SWIRL of controversy that greeted President Obama’s executive order lifting the ban on federal funding of stem cell research in March didn’t make a significant return when the final rules were released over the summer. That’s because the National Institutes of Health successfully navigated a minefield of ethical and moral questions. To protect those regulations from politics and changes by another administration, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) soon will introduce the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2009. The legislation would codify Mr. Obama’s executive order permitting federal funding of such research within guidelines established by the NIH and would require that they be reviewed periodically (…)
Mr. Obama’s executive order overturned one issued by President George W. Bush in 2001 that allowed federal funding only for those stem cell lines already developed. Scientists ultimately found the number of approved lines too few and the utility of those lines limited.
For facilities with stem cell lines developed on or before July 7, the NIH will establish a committee of scientists, ethicists and advocates to examine on a case-by-case basis the procedures and paperwork to determine whether the lines were derived with voluntary informed consent from donors and in a manner consistent with the new rules. This panel would also make the same evaluation of stem cell lines originating outside the United States. There are an estimated 700 stem cell lines already in existence.
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