Mapping the Ethical Issues of Brain Organoid Research and Application

Tsutomu Sawai*, Yoshiyuki Hayashi, Takuya Niikawa, Joshua Shepherd, Elizabeth Thomas, Tsung Ling Lee, Alexandre Erler, Momoko Watanabe, Hideya Sakaguchi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


In 2008, researchers created human three-dimensional neural tissue–known as the pioneering work of “brain organoids.” In recent years, some researchers have transplanted human brain organoids into animal brains for applicational purposes. With these experiments have come many ethical concerns. It is thus an urgent task to clarify what is ethically permissible and impermissible in brain organoid research. This paper seeks (1) to sort out the ethical issues related to brain organoid research and application and (2) to propose future directions for additional ethical consideration and policy debates in the field. Toward (1), this paper first outlines the current state of brain organoid research, and then briefly responds to previously raised related ethical concerns. Looking next at anticipated scientific developments in brain organoid research, we will discuss (i) ethical issues related to in vitro brain organoids, (ii) ethical issues raised when brain organoids form complexes or have relationships with other entities, and (iii) ethical issues of research ethics and governance. Finally, in pursuit of (2), we propose research policies that are mindful of the ethics of brain organoid research and application and also suggest the need for an international framework for research and application of brain organoids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-94
Number of pages14
JournalAJOB Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Neuroethics
  • brain
  • consciousness
  • regulatory issues
  • transplantation


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