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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR1 min readPop Culture
Sylvan Esso: 'Radio' From The Echo Mountain Sessions
Sylvan Esso perform "Radio" with a big band of friends in the duo's final installment of the Echo Mountain Sessions.
NPR2 min read
Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets'
We discuss Luc Besson's big-budget, bonkers-bananapants would-be blockbuster Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which looks unlikely to bust any blocks.
NPR4 min readPolitics
Detroit 1967: There's Still A Debate Over What To Call It
The unrest in the Motor City a half-century ago this summer left 43 dead. It was one of the most devastating episodes of civil conflict in the 20th century. But was it a riot or a rebellion?