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THE APOTHEOSIS PROJECT: Transplanting lab-grown human ‘mini-brains’ into animals

If a brain organoid mimics the real thing then it too could develop consciousness. This would result in animals developing humanized traits and abilities and could cause a 'Planet of the Apes' scenario.

STACY LIBERATORE: As research involving transplanting lab-grown human ‘mini-brains’ into animals to study neurological diseases continues to expand, experts warn the work with these brain organoids could result in a ‘Planet of the Apes’ scenario. The concern is animals could develop humanized traits and start to behave similar to the intelligent apes of the popular science fiction story. The warning comes from a team at Kyoto University who released a paper highlighting a number of ethical implications that could arise with brain organoid research.

Although many see brain organoids as a way to quickly develop disease treatments, others fear that because they are designed to mimic the real thing, they too may attain some form of consciousness… Brain organoids, first created in 2008, are 3D balls of brain-like tissue grown from stem cells – and usually from that of humans. Other stem cell research is using animal tissue to grow organoids, called ‘xeno-organs, which are transplanted into other animals…

For example, scientists successfully grew a mouse pancreas in a rat and vice versa. This ground-breaking work is paving the way for human pancreases to be grown in pigs that could later be harvested for human organ transplants. The paper notes, however, these animals would carry out their lives as organ farms for the sake of humans. However, Sawai said there is a more pressing issue. ‘One of the biggest problems is transplants. Should we put brain organoids into animals to observe how the brain behaves?’ Sawai warns that doing so could result in the animals having enhanced abilities, which may sounds just like the popular Planet of the Apes…

While growing whole human brains inside animals is not under any serious consideration, transplanting brain organoids could give crucial insight on how diseases like dementia or schizophrenia form and treatments to cure them… However, the topic has been met with mixed signals in the scientific community, as some see brain organoids as a way to rapidly develop treatments for devastating brain diseases and others fear organoids may soon attain some form of consciousness. The brain is deemed the source of human consciousness, so if brain organoids are just a smaller version of the real thing, they too should develop consciousness.// SOURCE…


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