S&S Dialogues: The Science & Ethics of Lab-Made Mini-Brains

19oct12:00 pm1:00 pmS&S Dialogues: The Science & Ethics of Lab-Made Mini-Brains


Science & Society Classroom, North Building 232

304 Research Drive, Durham, NC 27708


(Thursday) 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm(GMT+00:00) View in my time

Event Details


Scientists are using a new method to grow mini-brains from human cells. These “brain organoids” – pea-sized three-dimensional brain proxies grown in petri dishes – could fundamentally change basic brain research, disease modeling, and personalized medicine. But brain organoids have broad ethical and legal implications as well. Are there emergent properties of the human brain — like consciousness, or memories — that organoids may have? What kind of research is ethical on brain organoids? What are the implications for concepts like brain death in law and medicine?

Lunch will be served.

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Albert Keung is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His group is interested in the complex gene regulatory behaviors that are encoded by the epigenome and chromatin systems. These include the properties of gene expression memory, genetic imprinting, and dynamic signal processing. To study these properties, his group develops synthetic biology and molecular approaches to interface with and perturb the epigenome of cells. In addition, they are applying these tools to understand disease mechanisms, particularly in neural systems. Ongoing projects in the group are related to: cerebral organoid engineering; Autism, Angelman Syndrome, and Addiction; basic chromatin mechanisms in yeast; and exploiting DNA as a potential extreme-density storage medium for digital information.

Nita Farahany is the director of Duke Science & Society, the Duke MA in Bioethics & Science Policy, and Professor of Law & Philosophy. She is a leading scholar on the ethical, legal, and social implications of biosciences and emerging technologies, particularly those related to neuroscience and behavioral genetics. In 2010, she was appointed by President Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, and served until 2017.

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