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Ethics

26 - 11 - 2018

Organoids: here comes ethics

The in vitro culture of human mini-organs or organoid is developing as we speak. These structures only millimeters long are new research tools made possible thanks to technological advances.

 

Researchers at the University of San Diego have managed to produce developing human mini-brains, at stages when certain psychiatric diseases develop.

 

 

 

 

This is a considerable advance for research that lacks a good study model: firstly it is almost impossible to observe directly in utero in women and secondly the brain is the organ for which the transposition of animal models to humans is the most delicate.

 

The researchers "grew" these mini-brains from human stem cells. After six months, the electroencephalographic activity of these organoids appeared comparable to that of premature children aged 25 to 39 weeks.

 

This is a scientific achievement: these organoids could be very good models to study psychiatric diseases.

 

But it raises ethical questions: are these organoids conscious? What attitude should be adopted? Today no regulation is capable of answering these questions.

 

An ethical reflection is under way and rules will be adopted:

      - out of precaution, should certain organoids be excluded from research and others be subject to restrictions ?

      - will it be necessary for researchers using human brain organoids to prove the need to use them and to take into account any pain or suffering?

 

Such principles and rules are already applied in animal research.