Accepted paper:

Translating cell biology of ageing? On the importance of choreographing knowledge


Tiago Moreira (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on a 3 year ethnography in a cell biology lab, this paper explores the dis/alignment between knowledge making practices in senescence research and 'translational' regimes of innovation in biomedicine and health.

Paper long abstract:

Emergent technoscientific promises that hinge on the possibility of eliminating or manipulating senescent cells to tackle age-related diseases justify a renewed interest in ageing in the social studies of biomedicine. These proposals are significant because they represent attempts to solve historically constituted, epistemic and normative tensions between biology of ageing and biomedicine (Moreira, 2017). In this paper, I draw on a 3-year long ethnography in a cell biology of ageing laboratory to explore how the articulation between basic and clinical research is being crafted in this domain. I first describe how knowledge making in cell biology of ageing relies on two different epistemic and material cultures: visualisation and quantification. I argue that the focus of cell biologists' work on 'mechanisms', 'biomarkers' or 'clinical translation' is related to how uncertainty is distributed across the two sets of skills, instruments, repertoires of valuation, and types of objectivity. I suggest that funders and policy makers' requirement to find innovative applications for cell biology of ageing restricts the movement - the careful choreography - between the two epistemic cultures. This has consequences for cell biology of ageing's ability not only to re-open questions about the relationship between ageing and senescence but also to re-imagine the innovation regime for the 'aging society'.

panel E05
Assembly, silence and dissent in the design and use of gerontechnologies