May 21, 2019

Can Lab-Grown Human Brains Think?

“It has been 200 years since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published, and while scientists still haven’t figured out how to create a walking, talking complex life in a lab, they may be getting closer.

A growing number of researchers are mastering the creation of organoids: simplified, miniature versions of real human organs. These structures aren’t being harvested to make Frankenstein’s monster. Instead, they’re helping develop new drugs, and they are forcing the medical establishment to seriously consider the ethics of lab-grown life.

Developing pharmaceuticals is typically an expensive and risky process. Roughly 90 percent of drugs that make it to human trials are never submitted to the FDA for approval because they’re found to be unsafe or ineffective. Most estimates place the cost of developing a new drug at somewhere around $3 billion. Organoids, which are grown from human stem cells, may be able to remove some of the guesswork in patient trials.

“Researchers have gotten really good at curing diseases in mice, but unfortunately animal studies don’t really translate to human bodies,” says Kevin Costa, chief scientific officer at Novoheart, a stem cell biotechnology firm known for creating heart organoids. “There are differences in how cardiac muscle cells behave in rodents versus primates and humans. Consequently, one of the main reasons that drugs fail in clinical trials is because of cardiotoxicity, problems related to heart function.””

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The biggest topic in British political circles on Monday wasn’t the country’s impending departure from the European Union. It was milkshakes..."

"I often disagree with Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., but I've been disturbed by the idea that he should be run out of the Republican Party just because he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses."

"The Icelandic band Hatari, whose members are quite vocal in their animosity towards Israel, held up Palestinian flags... Madonna, likewise, had two of her performers wear Israeli and Palestinian flags on their costumes."

"To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, I turn to movie critic Roger Ebert's old review of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Trust me on this one.)"

"The money is already here—and has been for years. In the midst of a housing crisis, an injection of cash into the superheated real-estate market seems likely to cause an uptick in evictions and displacement."

"Parents concerned about YouTube debate whether to let their children have their own channels; some forbid it, others send them to summer camp..."

"‘I Had Completely Lost the Knack for Staying Alive..." Warmer weather brings daffodils, rhubarb at the farmer’s market — and, for some, despair."

"With his new book, Howard Stern proves that his rightful place is among the prophets and moral visionaries, not the ‘shock jocks’"

"I’m terrified of parenting in the anti-vaxxer age: Anti-vaccine propaganda isn’t just harmful to children. It threatens to erode our entire sense of community."

"...doctors are starting to think more about specific nutrients that feed tumor cells. That is, how what we eat affects how cancers grow..."

"...it represents an impressive achievement: a victory of humankind against the chaos that pervades the universe."

"If trends continue, in 20 years the majority of the world’s Jews will be living in Israel. The United States will see a continuing decline in overall numbers, with a growing observant Jewish population..."