Regenerative Medicine Utrecht


Can you intervene in nature? Where do you set the limit?

How do scientists come to the one insight that determines the course of their career? They talk about this in the Eureka section, every weekend in the AD, provided by the editors of New Scientist. This week, RMU researcher Annelien Bredenoord, professor of ethics of biomedical innovation at the University Medical Center Utrecht.

Note: This article has been translated from the original article by Jim Jansen in the AD (Dutch).



“New technology such as stem cell research, DNA techniques, reproduction technology and artificial intelligence always evokes very different emotions and reactions. Can you intervene in nature? Where do you set the limit?

The first human species intervened in nature more than 100,000 years ago. It fits in with the intrinsic nature of mankind to control nature, to improve it and to control it. This is called innovation.

Ball of wool

As a professor of ethics of biomedical innovation, I have a research group with which we think about how that innovation can be developed responsibly in the laboratory and in healthcare. Sometimes I compare my work with the dismantling of a huge multicolored ball of wool. I work calmly and analytically to reduce everything to clear questions that can be divided into, for example, medical, ethical and financial components.

That is also the biggest challenge. Scientists can come up with and create everything in the long run, but how do we deal with all those different interests, people, feelings and emotions? That is very complicated.

Alone together

Thanks to the frequent reading of the work of technology philosophers such as Sheila Jasanoff, Bruna Latour and Peter Paul Verbeek, I have learned that people, morals and technology are intrinsically linked and have constant influence on each other. This made me realize that as an ethicist I have to be in the lab and in the hospital to shape the technology together with the scientists, doctors and patients at an early stage.

Through these insights I have further developed the method of ethical parallel research. We work together with researchers from various scientific disciplines, but also with patients, politicians and social partners. Co-creation, at an early stage.”