Accepted paper:

Powering life: exploring the bio-objectification of mitochondria in reproduction

Authors:

Nolwenn Bühler (University of Neuchâtel)
Cathy Herbrand (De Montfort University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the bio-objectification of mitochondria in the field of reproduction. It asks how a feminist technoscience approach helps us to address the implications of their objectification in promissory bioeconomies, while accounting for the way they blur the boundaries of reproduction.

Paper long abstract:

Largely unknown only a few years ago, mitochondria, these organelles providing the cell with energy, have recently gained greater public visibility in the field of reproduction through the introduction of two technologies involving their manipulation and transferability. The first, so-called 'three-parents IVF' aims at avoiding the maternal transmission of serious health disorders, while the second, so-called AUGMENT, promises to improve egg quality and increase fertilisation chances. Both are invested with promissory capital and gain biovalue in a reproductive bioeconomy driven by hope and technological innovation. At the intersection of reproduction and genetics, these 'mito-technologies' contribute to a reconfiguration of reproductive and hereditary processes.

Our paper questions the implications of rendering mitochondria both manipulable and manipulating by examining three key characteristics of the bio-objectivation processes of mitochondria: 1) their transferability; 2) their enhancement potential; and 3) their biovalue. It asks how a feminist technoscience approach helps us to address the articulation between mitochondria as a biological resource on the one hand and as a promissory one on the other. We argue that if mitochondria's life is objectified in biological and economic terms, it also resists any attempts to stabilize a fixed notion of life and contributes in contrast to blur the boundaries of reproduction.

panel F05
Promissory encounters? Exploring innovations at the intersection of reproduction and genetics from a feminist STS perspective