Neural organoids in research

Policy Briefing

Published 27/03/2024

Briefing note cover
Image of scientist and petri dish

Neural organoids in research: ethical considerations

Organoids are small, lab-grown three-dimensional structures that are made from stem cells to model different aspects of an organ or tissue, such as the liver, gut, kidney and brain.

This policy briefing note focuses on neural organoids, and particularly human neural organoids, which are used to model different aspects of the developing brain.

This briefing note aims to provide an evidence-based and balanced summary of the main ethical considerations in neural organoid research and the ethical issues that might arise in the future as research progresses. We describe the main advances in this area of research, give an overview of relevant regulation and guidance, and present and discuss the main ethical considerations in neural organoid research.


  • Neural organoids are promising research tools that could have important applications in the future, improving our understanding of a range of brain conditions and treatment options.
  • Neural organoid research is, however, still in its infancy and its potential is yet to be fully explored. There is still uncertainty around future possibilities, research directions, likelihood of success, and the extent to which neural organoids currently resemble, and will be able to resemble, the human brain.
  • Research is moving at pace, and it is difficult to predict when significant developments will take place. It is important, therefore, for policy makers to work with scientists, ethicists, and publics to ensure that the ethical and regulatory questions are fully explored, in order to ensure that appropriate guidance and regulations will be in place to facilitate innovation and address ethical considerations.
Relevant ethical considerations in neural organoid research include:
  • whether or not more tailored ethical guidance and oversight is needed;
  • what might be appropriate consent procedures and processes for tissue donors;
  • the potential for neural organoid research to benefit human and non-human animals;
  • the importance of balanced and accurate communication of neural organoids’ current and potential future capabilities; and
  • the possibility of neural organoids developing capacities increasingly similar to the developing human brain, such as sentience and consciousness, if indeed they ever do.]
Areas where further ethical guidance, policy, and regulatory decisions are needed include:
  • appropriate consent processes that can account for the fast-paced developments and unpredictable direction of research;
  • what appropriate, future-looking, and proportionate regulation of these models might look like - if needed - considering developments in assembloids, neural organoid transplantation and other, more advanced technologies; and
  • what anatomical or functional ‘hallmarks’ might be used as criteria to attribute consciousness to neural organoids and what the implications for their moral significance might be as a result

Read the policy briefing note - Neural organoids in research: ethical considerations

Project Lead

Claudia Corradi


Claudia undertakes research to support the Council’s work. She also monitors developments in different areas of interest to the Council.

Before joining the Council, she has been a research assistant in the field of cognitive neuroscience and completed a BA in Philosophy and an MSc in Clinical, Social and Cognitive Neuroscience.