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.

guest
8 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Daniel Silvermint
Daniel Silvermint
6 years ago

Vat Brain 2016.Report

David Killoren
David Killoren
6 years ago

The mad scientist’s name is Rene–of course.Report

anonymous
anonymous
6 years ago

you mean, John?Report

Will Behun
Will Behun
6 years ago

Sorry, Daniel…Vat Brain has to be at least 18 years old to be elected PM and at least 35 to stand for President of the USA.Report

Dan
Dan
6 years ago

It would be good to have a bit more detail about how they did it. At present I have little clue from the article about what this is, and given the nature of the claims, I would like to know.Report

MM
MM
6 years ago

And it’s voting for Trump.Report

Susan Schneider
Susan Schneider
6 years ago

There is another case that has been around for years.Thomas De Marse at the University of Florida built one years ago based on rat cortical tissue. It flies a pretty sophisticated flight simulator. Discover Magazine had a piece on it. This is ongoing work with the defense department, I believe. Will it take the red pill or the blue pill:-)?Report

PeterJ
6 years ago

It is my understanding that most biologists already believe that we are brains in vats so this seems a rather redundant exercise.Report