Stem Cell Research in the Greater Middle East: The Importance of Establishing Policy and Ethics Interoperability to Foster International Collaborations
Matthews, Kirstin R.W.
Flynn, Jesse M.
While fossil fuel reserves have strengthened the economies of numerous countries in the Greater Middle East (GME) for decades, multiple nations within this region are now increasingly investing in internal science and engineering programs as a mechanism to develop more extensive knowledge-based economies. One of these newly pursued disciplines is stem cell research. Nations such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have founded nascent programs while Iran, Turkey, and Israel are more established in the field. The extent to which these investments have been productive, as measured by publication quantity and impact, remains unknown. Here we assess the state of stem cell research in the GME, report on the policy and ethical considerations facing the region, and determine the impact of international research collaborations in this area. In the majority of the region, there is no legal framework regulating stem cell research. Instead, scientists often rely on religious decrees outlining acceptable practices. These guidelines do not provide the necessary structure to foster international collaborations with nations that have enacted formal laws recognized worldwide. Our results illustrate that international collaborations in the GME produce publications of greater impact despite the fact that political tensions and issues unrelated to science have the potential to dramatically hinder cross-border relationships in the region. Overall, we conclude that the national governments of countries within the GME have the unique opportunity to establish stem cell research policies which confer interoperability between nations to foster crucial international collaborations throughout the region.