The research, involving the growth of cerebral ‘organoids’ from human stem cells, was published in Nature on Wednesday. For some good coverage of the science behind this work, see Ed Yong’s piece here and the FAQ here.
It’s not hard to see why these little blobs have attracted a lot of media attention. It’s a remarkable technique, although growing brain cells in culture is not new. Such ‘brains in a dish’ have been around for some time.
What’s new here is that these organoids grew in 3D, and – all by themselves – started to differentiate into rudimentary brain regions.
Incredible. But is it ethical?
There are, perhaps, three ways to look at this. Firstly, you might feel that such research is repellent by its very nature – that to dissect the human brain in this way is “playing God”, or some such.