Recent developments in stem cell research and genomics have made it possible to grow mini‐organs, so‐called organoids, in culture. Organoids are self‐assembling three‐dimensional structures that closely resemble the architecture and function of real organs and are seen as one of the most significant developments in stem cell research with a wide range of applications in research and in the clinic. However, the relevant ethics for organoid technology have not been sufficiently addressed. First, the moral and legal status of organoids deserves further exploration. Second, organoid biobanking calls for the development of adequate consent procedures in both research and clinical applications. Third, the concept of mixed models in biobanking of organoids requires distinct governance structures. Fourth, we anticipate ethical challenges related to clinical translation. Further interdisciplinary discussion is required to stimulate morally responsible innovation.
As organoid biobanking is growing rapidly, it should be scrutinized whether and to what extent organoids give new twists to the ethical challenges in stem‐cell research and analogous fields.
Organoids can be grown from several types of stem cells, including induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and adult stem cells for a wide variety of organs including gut, kidney, pancreas, liver, brain, and retina, among others. These mini‐organs can be stored in biobanks and used for fundamental research, precision medicine, and regenerative medicine , . Cerebral organoids can be used to understand brain development, and mini‐guts can serve as a personalized drug‐testing tool for cystic fibrosis (CF) , . Mini‐livers could form a complement to current organ transplantation to restore liver function of patients with metabolic liver disease .
Stem cell research, and the use of embryonic stem cells in particular, has raised a fierce ethical debate, which mainly revolved around the moral …