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Soc Stud Sci. 2011 Oct;41(5):645-66.

Experimental stem cell therapy: biohierarchies and bionetworking in Japan and India.

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ARTS C209, Department ofAnthropology, University of Sussex, UK.


This article concerns new developments in autologous adult stem cell research in Japan and India through the notions of biohierarchy and bionetworking. It conceptualizes how human subject research in one country may be turned into experimental stem cell therapies in another through bionetworks. We analyse the processes that enable researchers in Japan to discard a therapy as being of reputational risk, while researchers in India employ it so that it becomes reputation enhancing. At the same time, scientists from both countries collaborate in and potentially benefit from the same bionetwork. Explaining how the recruitment of patients and scientists is organized through bionetworking, this article analyses how experimental research in India thrives using Japanese technologies. The concept of biohierarchy illustrates how inequalities in health and standards of living in India and in Japan underpin the methods by which researchers, medical professionals, managers and patients collaborate in bionetworks. The concept of 'boundary object' here captures the ways in which the meaning of experimental therapy is defined by subjective categories projected onto it by patients and scientists alike. The article is based on fieldwork conducted by both authors during 3 months between September and December 2008 at various locations in India and Japan. Data for this article were collected from a wide range of interviews with stem cell researchers, medical doctors, coordinators, managers and patients, primary and secondary sources gathered at these centres, and through web and archival research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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