Friends of mine are in another Writing in Biology class and were given the task of reading multiple types of articles and scientific papers, like research articles, funding proposals, manufacturer guides, etc. One very interesting article they were given that my friend shared with me was about organoid research. Organoids are created from collecting cell samples, for example epithelial human cells, treated them with just the right compounds to revert them back to stem cells, and then controlling the differentiation process to produce organs from the human genome in vitro. The scientists highlighted in the article were specifically growing stems cells into neurons that mimics the human brain. The organoids started very small and simple. Eventually the research brought the scientists to add other matter to the organoids like retna cells and a way of connecting to a insect-like robot. These branches gave the growing organoids spacial awareness and the ability to respond to light. So after, the cells were producing organized synchronized neurological signals, similar to the brain waves found in a premature baby. Although this research started with stem cells to replicate a brain to study the pathways of rare diseases, it seemed to quickly be going somewhere else. The ethics of the research is now far more questionable: if the organoid can sense light and space, what happens if it develops senses of pain, emotions, and consciousness? Researchers have claimed that might be impossible, but lets consider if it really is. The organoid can continue to grow cells, increasing size and become more and more complex. This reminds me of as late as the 1940s, scientists were convinced babies could not feel pain. This statement was based off of the observation of babies when dealt mild pain, and adults concluded they did not respond differently. To us now, this seems abserd, but it wasn't until 1987 that it was officially made unethical to operate on babies without anesthetics (https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2017/07/28/when-babies-felt-pain/Lhk2OKonfR4m3TaNjJWV7M/story.html). If we treated fully formed children with this little care, why would we even ask the question is these organoids could feel or sense? I would answer, because we should consider what the possibilities of this science are and how our research should be adjusted accordingly. If these organoids could become self-aware, it would be entirely wrong to continue experimenting on and altering them, but do we kill them and grow younger, less complex ones? Is killing them ethical because the organoids weren't naturally created, or is it murder? All these questions should be considered and weighted in this research.
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