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Meet Your New Mouse Overlords: Scientists Are Growing Tiny Human Brains Inside Mice

Scientists, possibly after one too many readings of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, have grown human brains in mice. Okay, so they’re not human minds, just tiny brains called organoids made of human brain cells, and they’re used to experiment on in ways you can’t experiment on humans. Well, you could, but it would be unethical. It didn’t stop Josef Mengele, but we like to set a higher bar for scientific ethics than “things Nazis did in concentration camps.”

What’s fascinating is that, according to Inverse, is that these organoids are able to essentially become a part of the mouse they’re implanted in, connecting to the circulatory and nervous systems. Which brings us to the question of what do we do if one of these mice goes all Gorilla Grodd and starts trying to overthrow humanity?

“We are entering totally new ground here,” Christof Koch, president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, told STAT. “The science is advancing so rapidly, the ethics can’t keep up.”

Scientists have debated whether these brains are “conscious,” but the fact that they could be successfully implanted in lab animals raises a whole new set of ethical concerns for the researchers who work with them. One of the major concerns in the mini-brain scenario is that these organoids could grow to more advanced levels within lab animals, making the debate about mini-brain consciousness much more urgent.

Planet of the Mice! End of days! Somebody save the Statue of Liberty! Okay, mice developing human consciousness, even if we’re growing tiny human brains in them, is very unlikely. For a start, brain size plays a role in sentience. One of the big differences between early Homo and our ape forebearers is the size of our brain, which allowed us to develop higher thought processes. Still, if the chance exists that we could create mice with human consciousness, we need to know what we should do if it does happen. Personally, I’m voting for a live-action Pinky and the Brain remake.

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