Stem cell technology has advanced rapidly over the past decade, with the latest development being the ability to grow organoids – or “mini brains” – in bodies of rats or mice.
Scientists have reported that these organoids were able to survive for up to two months, and were connected to the animals’ circulatory and nervous systems, transferring blood and neve signals between the implanted human cells and its animal host. The organoids were shown to respond to stimuli in a similar way to that of a human brain.
Although organoids pose a world of opportunity in regards to research potential, they also cause rise to a number of ethical questions. Researchers plan on using organoids to perform tests on them that would be considered unethical on human subjects, however the level of consciousness of these organoids is still being debated. There are also concerns with placing a human brain structure into a non-human host, and its potential ramifications.
With ethics seemingly lagging behind scientific progress, more needs to be done to ensure they are able to keep pace with one another, allowing for the safe advancement of biological technologies.