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Why Look At Neuroethics?

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 scientific and an ethical challenge, not least because it seems like the stuff of zombie B-movies. After all, using microglia to halt the progression of AD, and therefore cognitive loss, by dissolving senile plaques is only one philosophical step (albeit very many scientific steps) from a genetic system for cognitive gain, so the implications of our project stretch past medical bioethics. In the interests of assessing the feasibility of the project in social terms, we are producing this report dealing with the attitudes and neuroethics of the potential use of neuro-genetic engineering in medicine,therapy and enhancement technology, as well as expounding a little on some of the scientific concepts behind various approaches.

The Essay

In a comprehensive report, team member Alexander Bates takes a look at the medical ethics, the neuroethics and both the plausible and fanciful neuroscientific applications of synthetic biology:

Neuro-Genethics Report.PDF

Introduction: Medicine and Synthetic Biology

Medical Neuro-Genetic Engineering

Therapeutic Neuro-Genetic Engineering

Enhancement Neuro-Genetic Engineering

The Core of the Neuroethical Debate