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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Growing brains in labs: why it's time for an ethical debate

Ian Sample
The Guardian
Originally published April 24, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

The call for debate has been prompted by a raft of studies in which scientists have made “brain organoids”, or lumps of human brain from stem cells; grown bits of human brain in rodents; and kept slivers of human brain alive for weeks after surgeons have removed the tissue from patients. Though it does not indicate consciousness, in one case, scientists recorded a surge of electrical activity from a ball of brain and retinal cells when they shined a light on it.

The research is driven by a need to understand how the brain works and how it fails in neurological disorders and mental illness. Brain organoids have already been used to study autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia and the unusually small brain size seen in some babies infected with Zika virus in the womb.

“This research is essential to alleviate human suffering. It would be unethical to halt the work,” said Nita Farahany, professor of law and philosophy at Duke University in North Carolina. “What we want is a discussion about how to enable responsible progress in the field.”

The article is here.
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