Prospects and Ethics of Stem Cell Research: An Islamic Perspective
Keywords:Human embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood stem cells, stem cell research, somatic cell nuclear transfer, regenerative medicine, ethical considerations, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Islamic shariah, politics and science
Stem cells (SCs) are pluripotent cells that retain the ability to develop into all cell types. This characteristic makes them appealing for use in research with view of therapeutic use, especially in "regenerative medicine." Stem cell sources include the following:
1. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs): These are derived from the inner cell mass of developing embryos.
2. Adult stem cells (ASCs): The best known source of ASCs is the hematopoietic cells of the bone marrow. These have been used clinically with good results in the treatment of leukemias. Very few ASCs may be present in other organs, e.g. the brain.
3. Cord blood: Cord blood is another source of "adult" hematopoietic stem cells.
4. Therapeutic cloning: Therapeutic cloning utilizes nuclear transfer techniques to produce pluripotent SCs with the genome of the nucleus of origin. These cells can be induced to differentiate into replacement cells for transplantation into the individual from whom the original cell was obtained, thus eliminating the requirement of immune suppression.
In this paper I will discuss the potential and realized gains of stem cell therapies as well as the potential problems associated with their use. I then will discuss the ethical dilemma that this research entails as it deals with the human embryo. I will discuss the moral status of the embryo and the varying views of ethicists in this regard and then I will discuss the opinion of religious communities and, specifically, the Islamic perspective. Islamically, stem cell research is probably permissible, except for the creation of embryos for the specific purpose of using them only in research. Therapeutic cloning will be Islamically acceptable when the intent is to create tissue/organ from the individual who needs it, the procedure is feasible, and the result is expected to be good.
Finally, I will discuss the present status of stem cell research in the United States and the politics that impact it.
LicenseAuthors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).