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Transforming trash to treasure: Cultural ambiguity in foetal cell research
Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för hälsa och samhälle (HS), Institutionen för socialt arbete (SA). Lund University; University of Copenhagen, Denmark.ORCID-id: 0000-0003-3571-4620
Lund University; Wallenberg Research Centre At Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
University of Gothenburg.
Lund University.
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2021 (Engelska)Ingår i: Philosophy Ethics and Humanities in Medicine, E-ISSN 1747-5341, Vol. 16, artikel-id 6Artikel i tidskrift (Refereegranskat) Published
Abstract [en]

Background

Rich in different kind of potent cells, embryos are used in modern regenerative medicine and research. Neurobiologists today are pushing the boundaries for what can be done with embryos existing in the transitory margins of medicine. Therefore, there is a growing need to develop conceptual frameworks for interpreting the transformative cultural, biological and technical processes involving these aborted, donated and marginal embryos. This article is a contribution to this development of frameworks.

Methods

This article examines different emotional, cognitive and discursive strategies used by neurobiologists in a foetal cell transplantation trial in Parkinson’s disease research, using cells harvested from aborted embryos. Two interviews were analysed in the light of former observations in the processing laboratories, using the anthropologist Mary Douglas’s concept of pollution behaviour and the linguist, philosopher, psychoanalyst and feminist Julia Kristeva’s concept of the abjective to explain and make sense of the findings.

Results

The findings indicate that the labour performed by the researchers in the trial work involves transforming the foetal material practically, as well as culturally, from trash to treasure. The transformation process contains different phases, and in the interview material we observed that the foetal material or cells were considered objects, subjects or rejected as abject by the researchers handling them, depending on what phase of process or practice they referred to or had experience of. As demonstrated in the analysis, it is the human origin of the cell that makes it abjective and activates pollution discourse, when the researchers talk of their practice.

Conclusions

The marginal and ambiguous status of the embryo that emerges in the accounts turns the scientists handling foetal cells into liminal characters in modern medicine. Focusing on how practical as well as emotional and cultural strategies and rationalizations of the researchers emerge in interview accounts, this study adds insights on the rationale of practically procuring, transforming and utilizing the foetal material to the already existing studies focused on the donations. We also discuss why the use and refinement of a tissue, around which there is practical consensus but cultural ambiguity, deserves further investigation.

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
BioMed Central (BMC), 2021. Vol. 16, artikel-id 6
Nyckelord [en]
Foetal cells, Embryos, Abortion, Transplantation, Pollution behaviour, Ritual, Foetal waste, Abject, Embryonic ambiguity
Nationell ämneskategori
Etnologi
Forskningsämne
Hälsa och samhälle
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-45919DOI: 10.1186/s13010-021-00104-yISI: 000695820000001PubMedID: 34521443Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85114900348OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mau-45919DiVA, id: diva2:1594426
Tillgänglig från: 2021-09-15 Skapad: 2021-09-15 Senast uppdaterad: 2024-03-08Bibliografiskt granskad
Ingår i avhandling
1. Cells in Culture, cells in Suspense.: Practices of Cultural Production in Foetal Cell Research
Öppna denna publikation i ny flik eller fönster >>Cells in Culture, cells in Suspense.: Practices of Cultural Production in Foetal Cell Research
2019 (Engelska)Doktorsavhandling, sammanläggning (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
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.

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
Lund University Open Access, 2019. s. 210
Serie
Lund Studies in Arts and Cultural Sciences, ISSN 2001-7529, E-ISSN 2001-7510 ; 21
Nationell ämneskategori
Etnologi
Identifikatorer
urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-54390 (URN)978-91-983690-8-3 (ISBN)
Disputation
(Engelska)
Opponent
Tillgänglig från: 2022-08-15 Skapad: 2022-08-15 Senast uppdaterad: 2023-01-10Bibliografiskt granskad

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Wiszmeg, AndréaHansson, Kristofer

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