NPR

Harvard Scientists Call For Better Rules To Guide Research On 'Embryoids'

Some recent studies in synthetic biology, they say, raise new questions about the ethical limits of creating entities that might feel pain or resemble human embryos — or mimic humans in other ways.

Embryoids like this one are created from stem cells and resemble very primitive human embryos. Scientists are studying them in hopes of learning more about basic human biology and development. Source: Courtesy of Rockefeller University

How far should scientists be allowed to go in creating things that resemble primitive human brains, hearts, and even human embryos?

That's the question being asked by a group of Harvard scientists who are doing exactly that in their labs. They're using stem cells, genetics and other new biological engineering techniques to create tissues, primitive organs and other living structures that mimic parts of the human body.

Their concern is that they and others doing this type of "synthetic biology" research might be treading into disturbing territory.

"We don't know where this going to go," says John Aach, a lecturer in genetics at Harvard Medical School. "This is just the beginning of this field

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