Any headline containing the words “tiny human brains,” “implanted” and “rats” can’t be good news, even if the implanting is being done by some of the most famous and reputable labs in the world. Yet that’s what’s going to be discussed (and probably argued about in the break-outs, bathrooms and bars) when 21 papers on tiny human brains or organoids are presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience taking place in Washington, D.C., November 11-15.
The news comes from the journal STAT, which gives a detailed introduction to the scientific and medical innovations and ethical dilemmas that preceded these studies. Human brain organoids are blobs of human brain tissue grown from stem cells. They’re tiny and allegedly non-thinking but they react like human brains and have been used for drug testing and studies on brain diseases. The ethics of implanting them in non-human vertebrates will certainly be discussed since there is currently no ban on it but plenty of controversy.