Popular Science

If you grow a brain in a lab, will it have a mind of its own?

As our ability to create organs expands, ethical questions come into play.
brain in a jar

A brain in a jar, duh.

There are lots of reasons one might want to grow brains. For starters, they would allow us to study human neurological issues in detail, which is otherwise quite challenging to do. Neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have devastated millions of people, and brains in a jar (so to speak) could allow us to study disease progression and test potential medications.

The prospect of a lab-grown brain is so compelling that the authors of an editorial in Nature published this week wrote that “the promise of brain surrogates is such that abandoning them seems itself unethical, given the vast amount of human suffering caused by neurological and psychiatric disorders, and given that most therapies for these diseases developed in animal models fail to work in people.”

But there’s a problem. The closer we get to growing a full human brain, the more .

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