Holy %#&! They Made a Real Brain in a Vat

An almost fully-formed human brain has been grown in a lab for the first time, claim scientists from Ohio State University… Though not conscious the miniature brain, which resembles that of a five-week-old foetus, could potentially be useful for scientists who want to study the progression of developmental diseases… The brain, which is about the size of a pencil eraser, is engineered from adult human skin cells and is the most complete human brain model yet developed claimed Rene Anand… Previous attempts at growing whole brains have at best achieved mini-organs that resemble those of nine-week-old foetuses, although these “cerebral organoids” were not complete and only contained certain aspects of the brain. “We have grown the entire brain from the get-go,” said Anand. Anand and his colleagues claim to have reproduced 99% of the brain’s diverse cell types and genes. They say their brain also contains a spinal cord, signalling circuitry and even a retina.

The above is from The GuardianTechnically, there is no mention of a vat, so my headline may be somewhat sensationalist.

Ohio State has a press release about it, too, in which they report:

It takes about 15 weeks to build a model system developed to match the 5-week-old fetal human brain. Anand and McKay have let the model continue to grow to the 12-week point, observing expected maturation changes along the way. “If we let it go to 16 or 20 weeks, that might complete it, filling in that 1 percent of missing genes. We don’t know yet.”

The Guardian article contains this amazing statement:

The ethical concerns were non-existent, said Anand.

Why is that?

“We don’t have any sensory stimuli entering the brain. This brain is not thinking in any way.

Hmmm.  Hey Ohio State Philosophers! You may want to schedule a visit to the Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology Department.

(via Sydney Penner)

UPDATE (8/19/15): Julian Savulescu highlights some of the ethical concerns with the project here.

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