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Experimental stem cell therapy: Biohierarchies and bionetworking in Japan and India

Authors: Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner and Prasanna Kumar Patra

Abstract:

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 organised 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 concepts of  ‘boundary object’ here captures the ways in which the meaning of experimental therapy is embodied by subjective categories projected onto it by patients and scientists alike. The article is based on fieldwork conducted by both authors during three 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.

 

The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in Social Studies of Science, volume 41, issue 5, October 2011, pp.696-707, by SAGE Publications Ltd. All rights reserved. © The original article published in Social Studies of Science is available online at: http://sss.sagepub.com/content/41/52