Scientists Are Implanting Mini Human Brains Into Animals, Raising Ethical Concerns
#SCIENCE BY PAULSACCAOCTOBER 17, 201
In what sounds like a chapter straight out of H.G. Wells’ 1886 science fiction novel The Island of Doctor Moreau, scientists are preparing to implant mini human brains into animals. The world-altering procedures also come with a number of ethical concerns about the ramifications of the intriguing, yet potentially scary science.
In a new scientific paper titled “Transplantation of Human Brain Organoids: Revisiting the Science and Ethics of Brain Chimeras” published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania pose the ethical concerns associated to the “potential humanization of host animals.”
This is a topic we discussed in August when there was a report that scientists in China were involved in a project is to create human-animal chimeras, which is a single organism composed of cells from different species. That project injected human cells into monkey embryos to create the world’s first monkey-human hybrid.
This newest mad scientist-sounding experiment will reportedly take human brains and transplant them into an animal. Cerebral organoids are tiny clumps of neural cells about the size of a pea. Cerebral organoids are grown in vitro and have the brain capabilities of a ten-week-old human embryo.
Scientists grow these organoids by taking a sample of stem cells from a human. These stem cells are pluripotent, which means that they are capable of becoming different types of cell types, such as neurons. The cerebral organoids will organize into specific sections of the brain, such as the cortex and cortical cells.
Researchers take these cells and implant them into animals such as rodents. Rats that have had human brain cells embedded in them performed better in intelligence tests. There is potential that animals could be augmented with human intelligence and consciousness, opening up many questions. Could these rodents turn into super smart The Secret of NIMH rats? Or will they become Pinky and the Brain rodents who attempt to do “the same thing they do every night, try to take over the world!”