Organoids are tiny, self-organised three-dimensional cell cultures that replicate the complexity of human organs. They are already providing insights into diseases pathologies, drug development, transplantation options, behaviour and genetics, brain research and even learning networks. This rich field of research agendas and commercial needs could usher in a revolution in innovative diagnostics, therapeutics, and commercial ecosystems connected to personalised medicine.
- What challenges affect developing organoids openly and transparently?
- What ethical and moral issues are there, especially around brain and interspecies organoids?
“Most of the biomedical sciences have been reliant on animal models, which is unsatisfactory for understanding the human brain. ”
“Human organoids open a new window in science, including gaining more understanding of the human brain, but they present ethical and moral issues that should be examined. Several groups are working on generating synthetic human embryos in culture, which raises important questions. ”
“High costs mean that research tends to overlook diseases in the Global South, where there’s less of a developed market. ”
“The issue of autonomy and consent – whether a patient should have a say in how their samples are used or lingering rights to them in these new applications – is a looming problem. ”
“Organoids are not seen as morally neutral; tissue donors may perceive enduring personal connections with their organoids. ”
“The issue of patient confidentiality can be easier for researchers to deal with if they don’t know where the samples came from. ”
“Eventually, organoids sending neural oscillations similar to an EEG may acquire some self-aware consciousness. ”
“More communications outreach is needed to help the public understand what’s going on in the labs; a member of GESDA’s youth cohort recommends incorporating the research into school curricula. ”
“Some soft regulation may be needed, and the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and a UNESCO bioethics committee could be involved in governance discussions. ”
“The issue of remuneration involves intellectual property, and these problems may be the first issue for global governance to address with discoveries involving organoids because IP and ethics are closely linked. ”