Ethical, legal and social aspects of human cerebral organoids and their governance in Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.A.

Tübingen, Germany

International Research Retreat for PhD Students and Early Career Researchers
8th – 12th August 2022 in Tübingen, Germany
Call for Abstracts — Deadline March 7th 2022

Cerebral organoids are small-scale, three-dimensional cell structures generated from stem cells that resemble parts of the brain with regard to specific cell types and structure. They provide a unique access to human brain tissue for researchers to use as models for studying the development and diseases of the brain. The scope of research is further enhanced by the possibilities to create patient-specific brain organoids in personalized medicine, to use methods of genome editing or to transplant organoids into animals.

In addition to established bioethical issues concerning biobanking, informed consent, ownership of biomaterials, data protection and human-animal chimeras, the ethical debate on human organoids has a strong focus on cerebral organoids potentially becoming conscious or sentient, and their moral status as they come closer to such states. Specific ethical oversight schemes and governance models may be needed to do justice to the intricate ethical and epistemic issues of research on human cerebral organoids. This is further complicated by the deep-seated cultural appreciation of human consciousness, its different conceptualizations and difficulties to measure it.

The key question of the research retreat is whether the research on human cerebral organoids and its ethical, legal and social aspects call for new regulation or governance measures. This question requires an in-depth study and interdisciplinary discussion of the scientific, epistemic, social, legal and ethical aspects and contexts of organoid research. The research retreat will also compare the regulatory and political backgrounds as well as ethical and public debates of research on cerebral organoids in Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.A. Notwithstanding their similarities in terms of their political systems and a considerable involvement in research and ethical debate on cerebral organoids, these three countries differ with regard to their governance and evaluation. To study these differences reveals the influence of political culture on the formation of public knowledge about the life sciences and could serve as a point of departure towards a best practice model of organoid research policy.


To submit your meeting or course, please contact Chris Barry



Science Communications & Education Manager