Journal of Medical Ethics 44 (9):606-610 (2018)

Organoids are three-dimensional biological structures grown in vitro from different kinds of stem cells that self-organise mimicking real organs with organ-specific cell types. Recently, researchers have managed to produce human organoids which have structural and functional properties very similar to those of different organs, such as the retina, the intestines, the kidneys, the pancreas, the liver and the inner ear. Organoids are considered a great resource for biomedical research, as they allow for a detailed study of the development and pathologies of human cells; they also make it possible to test new molecules on human tissue. Furthermore, organoids have helped research take a step forward in the field of personalised medicine and transplants. However, some ethical issues have arisen concerning the origin of the cells that are used to produce organoids and their properties. In particular, there are new, relevant and so-far overlooked ethical questions concerning cerebral organoids. Scientists have created so-called mini-brains as developed as a few-months-old fetus, albeit smaller and with many structural and functional differences. However, cerebral organoids exhibit neural connections and electrical activity, raising the question whether they are or will one day be somewhat sentient. In principle, this can be measured with some techniques that are already available, which are used for brain-injured non-communicating patients. If brain organoids were to show a glimpse of sensibility, an ethical discussion on their use in clinical research and practice would be necessary.
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DOI 10.1136/medethics-2017-104555
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References found in this work BETA

Mind and Body.Hilary Putnam - 1981 - In Reason, Truth and History. Cambridge University Press.
Consciousness and the Binding Problem.Wolf Singer - 2001 - Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 929:123-46.
Consciousness: Here, There and Everywhere?Giulio Tononi & Christof Koch - 2015 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 370 (1668):20140167.

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Citations of this work BETA

Human Brain Surrogates Research: The Onrushing Ethical Dilemma.Henry T. Greely - 2021 - American Journal of Bioethics 21 (1):34-45.
What (or Sometimes Who) Are Organoids? And Whose Are They?Andrea Lavazza - 2019 - Journal of Medical Ethics 45 (2):144-145.

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