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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

Read On Our Site

Introduction: Medicine and Synthetic Biology

Medical Neuro-Genetic Engineering

Therapeutic Neuro-Genetic Engineering

Enhancement Neuro-Genetic Engineering

The Core of the Neuroethical Debate



Team member's opinions on Neuroethics

Alex Bates

Our project is, as yet, highly theoretical, but it's implications lead us to one of the most fundamental questions in life: what is it to be human? Only once in our history has the human existence been radically redefined - at the origin on mankind, the transition from animals to intelligent, self-conscious beings. We are, perhaps, moving towards the frontier of another transition - the ability to induce dramatic changes in our consciousness at will. The question, "Should we genetically engineer the brain?" essentially asks, do we want to, or even have the right to, fundamentally redefine our existence for only the second time in our history.