Brain organoids, consciousness, ethics and moral status.
In this publication, we discuss how the increasing complexity of human brain organoids might lead to potentially conscious tissue. We contextualize this situation from an ethical and moral perspective. Finally, we propose a road map for investigators in this field to check the probability of consciousness in their protocol for brain organoids and how to deal with the ethical consequences.
Advances in the field of human stem cells are often a source of public and ethical controversy. Researchers must frequently balance diverse societal perspectives on questions of morality with the pursuit of medical therapeutics and innovation. Recent developments in brain organoids make this challenge even more acute. Brain organoids are a new class of brain surrogate generated from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). They have gained traction as a model for studying the intricacies of the human brain by using advancements in stem cell biology to recapitulate aspects of the developing human brain in vitro. However, recent observation of neural oscillations spontaneously emerging from these organoids raises the question of whether brain organoids are or could become conscious. At the same time, brain organoids offer a potentially unique opportunity to scientifically understand consciousness. To address these issues, experimental biologists, philosophers, and ethicists united to discuss the possibility of consciousness in human brain organoids and the consequent ethical and moral implications.