Stem cells: global cells, local cultures

Authored by: Jennifer Liu

Handbook of Genomics, Health and Society

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138211957
eBook ISBN: 9781315451695
Adobe ISBN:


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Stem cell research, and especially human embryonic stem cell research, has generated hope, hype and fears as well as substantial scholarly and political attention. Stem cells are scientific objects but they are also cultural and social objects. Thus, cultural framings shape the situated practices and meanings of stem cells even as they circulate in a global frame, and certain kinds of regulatory reconfigurations facilitate the capitalization of therapeutic potential. With the announcement in November 1998 that James Thomson’s team at the University of Wisconsin had derived the first human embryonic stem cell lines, stem cells became objects of enhanced media and political attention, generating imaginations of both transformative therapeutic hope and dystopian fears.

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