Several laboratories, including those at Harvard University and from Cambridge, succeeded in creating miniature replicas of brains in the laboratory, also known as organoids. Neuroscientists saw the success as an important landmark moment in the fight against heart disease, but others believe it is crossing major ethical boundaries. The tissue clusters are made of stem cells, and some have been noted to produce spontaneous brain waves, which can be seen in the formation of children, and may be a sign that these clump-like brains develop consciousness or even self-consciousness.
While there is a chance that these organoids could lead to great medical advances, as it allows experts to study the living brain in an unprecedented detail, others wonder if these tissue clumps are late ̵
In a presentation on Monday, October 21, researchers from the Green Neuroscience Laboratory in San Diego said there is an "urgent need" to develop a framework for the definition of "sentient" and what is considered too far.
Elan Ohayon, said: "If there is even a possibility that the organoid is sensitive, we can cross that line.
" We don't want people doing research where here is the potential for something to hit.
"We already see activity in organoids resembling biological activity in developing animals."
In a subsequent research paper, the researchers said, "The composition and causal features of these cultures are – by design – often very similar to naturally occurring neural substrates.
" Recent developments in organoid research also mean that the anatomical substrates are now approaching local network organizations and larger structures found in sensitive animals.
"Current organoid research is dangerously close to crossing this ethical Rubicon and may have already done so."
Neurosurgeon Isaac Chen, assistant professor of neurosurgery at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine and Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center, said: "Because of their ability to mimic certain brain structures and activities, human brain organoids – in animal models – allow the study of neurological diseases and other disorders in previously unthinkable ways.
" However, the field is developing rapidly, and when we continuing on this path, researchers must contribute to the creation of ethical guidelines based on scientific principles that define how to absorb their use before and after transplantation in animals.
"Such guidelines can help avoid confusion for researchers, especially when communicating with the public, and clearly presenting the benefits of this research against which all ethical or moral risks can be weighed. "