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Diffractions of the foetal cell suspension
Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3571-4620
2017 (English)In: Interpreting the brain in society.: Cultural reflections on neuroscientific practices / [ed] Hansson, Kristofer; Idvall, Markus, Arkiv förlag & tidskrift, 2017, 1, p. 73-94Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the quest for a cure for Parkinson’s disease, scientists have travelledmany avenues. One is the use of cells from aborted fetuses. These cellshave been proven to restore the lacking dopamine production in thebrain of the afflicted person. In order to place the cells inside the patient’sbrain, a so-called cell suspension must be made and administered, whichis a liquid produced in a laboratory containing mainly foetal brain cells.This can be transplanted either into rats for research or into human subjectsfor clinical trials, and theoretically for treatment.For people encountering the cell suspension, it enters their lives indifferent ways, giving it diverse shape and meaning; it also gives rise tomany different kinds of expectations. Thus, a delicate issue such as theuse of the cell suspension, with its foetal origin, provides a good basisfor discussing what I would call ‘science’s understanding of/engagementwith knowledge’. Normally when issues of participation in scienceare discussed, it is done in relation to how stakeholders and otherwiseaffected people such as for example patients and relatives understand science.The so-called ‘information deficit model’, where the public wasseen as lacking in knowledge and understanding, was a concept commonin the research field of the ‘public understanding of science’ (Evans &Durant 1995; Sturgis & Allum 2004). This model was gradually replacedby views in which engagement and information exchange were regardedas more of a two-way communication between researchers and the public;lay-people’s understanding was also seen as a kind of knowledge. Thedevelopment of a more reciprocal view of knowledge is expressed in thenewer concept of ‘public engagement with science and technology’ (see e.g. Stilgoe, Lock & Wilsdon 2014). Still, even with the newer terminologyand the ideas connected with it, much of the focus is on the ‘recipients’of scientific results, and less on those who produce them. This isproblematic, because it sets the researchers’ views apart as somethinglargely free from values, meaning and desire, as opposed to the afflictedlay-peoples’ views. In this chapter, I will give a more nuanced and complexpicture of how scientists value what they do. With the help ofinterviews with two laboratory researchers, I focus upon how they understand,value and provide meaning to the foetal cell suspension that theywork with. I argue that they do it differently, depending on how theyinteract with the suspension. The aim is to gain a better understanding ofhow the scientific knowledge comes into being in a scientific laboratory.The analysis thus problematizes how participation can be understood ina laboratory context.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Arkiv förlag & tidskrift, 2017, 1. p. 73-94
National Category
Ethnology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-54387ISBN: 978-91-7924-293-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mau-54387DiVA, id: diva2:1687228
Available from: 2022-08-15 Created: 2022-08-15 Last updated: 2022-08-15Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Cells in Culture, cells in Suspense.: Practices of Cultural Production in Foetal Cell Research
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Cells in Culture, cells in Suspense.: Practices of Cultural Production in Foetal Cell Research
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative affliction to whichresearchers have long striven to find a cure. The human embryois a source of vital cells used in regenerative medicine, as well as apowerful symbol of life. Using foetal cells from aborted embryosfor transplantation to the brains of Parkinson patients is an avenuethat has been explored by neuroscientistson and off for the lastthirty years. This ethnological compilation thesis follows a nationalbranch of a foetal cell transplantation trial through successes as wellas challenges in processing foetal material into an effective, transplantablecell suspension. The cell suspension is conceptualized as abio-object, and explored as something that produces new knowledge,emotions and logistical and ethical negotiations. These products arebeyond the scope of the trial and biomedical research in general, butthey do nonetheless interact with and affect society at large.New biomedical inventions and forms of therapies transgress thelimits of life and death and the boundaries of individuals, as well asbetween species. Such cultural reordering challenges researchers,health care professionals as well patients on a daily basis. Exploringthe intersection between instruction and practice, nature and cultureas well as between science and ritual, this thesis contributes to abroader understanding of cultural and material conditions ofknowledge production. It also offers a methodological elaborationof how a diffractive approach may be fruitful in ethnographicresearch, when trying to reconcile epistemological differences incross-disciplinary endeavours.The thesis is itself a product of multidisciplinary cooperation, inwhich the researcher is affiliated with the milieus the Departmentof Art and Cultural Sciences and the Basal Ganglia DisordersLinnaeus Consortium (Bagadilico) of the Medical Faculty, bothat Lund University, as well as the Learning and Media Technology(LET) Studio at Gothenburg University.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Lund University Open Access, 2019. p. 210
Series
Lund Studies in Arts and Cultural Sciences, ISSN 2001-7529, E-ISSN 2001-7510 ; 21
National Category
Ethnology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-54390 (URN)978-91-983690-8-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
(English)
Opponent
Available from: 2022-08-15 Created: 2022-08-15 Last updated: 2023-01-10Bibliographically approved

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