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The Neuroethics and Feasibility of Genetic Engineering on the Nervous System


Our project deals with an idea which may seem, on the face of it, frightening to some; the insertion of modified brain cells, microglia, to try and alleviate Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Although more similar to a macrophage than a neuron, engineering microglial cells represents both a neuroscientific and a neuroethical challenge, not least because it seems like the stuff of zombie B-movies. In the interests of assessing the feasibility of the project in social terms, we are producing this report dealing with the potential use, and ethics of the use, of genetic engineering (GE) on the nervous system, as well as expounding a little on some of the scientific concepts behind various approaches. We felt that the ethics of the issues raised are best analysed in light of the science behind the various neuroscientific applications of GE, and so we present them together.

Synthetic Biology and Medicine