(B01)
Joining together cells and tissues: novel in vitro technologies in context
Location Welcome Centre Lecture Theatre 3
Date and Start Time 26 Jul, 2018 at 11:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Neil Stephens (Brunel University London) email
  • Niki Vermeulen (University of Edinburgh) email

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Chair Neil Stephens and Niki Vermeulen
Discussant Niki Vermeulen

Short abstract

We discuss the communities, meeting spaces, policies, promises, and challenges for novel technologies working with cells and tissues outside the body, including (but not limited to) 3D bioprinting, upscale, synthetic biology, organogenesis, biobanking, and forms of gene editing operating in vitro.

Long abstract

Scientists and technologists are ever increasing the number of ways cells and tissues can be used and manipulated. This panel looks at these communities, meeting spaces, policies, promises and challenges for novel techniques working with cells and tissues outside of the body. In the context of new technology horizons, new health bioeconomies, and new ethical discourses, it remains vital that STS inspects innovation (and stagnation) as cells and tissues are produced, stored, manipulated, and collectively assembled in research, commercial, clinical, and industrial contexts. The panel welcomes papers on techniques including (but not limited to) 3D bioprinting, upscaling tissue production, synthetic biology, organogenesis, biobanking, and forms of gene editing operating in vitro (including cases when subsequent in vivo application is envisaged). While it is likely a number of papers in the session will consider biomedical contexts, it is not limited to that, and we look hope for papers exploring cellular or tissue level work in other domains.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Authenticating manufactured human cells for regenerative medicine

Author: Linda Hogle (University Wisconsin-Madison) email
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Short abstract

Upscaling cell manufacturing entails standardization of processes and cells, yet line specificities must be authenticated to ensure that products are market-ready and commercially valuable. Authentication practices in cell industrial design are analyzed, with unanticipated effects.

Long abstract

As regenerative medicine moves from discovery research to commercial scale-up, quality assurance (QA) and industrial manufacturing processes are applied toward a goal of fabricating a disciplined, standardized, replicable therapeutic tool. More than just creating cost and process efficiencies at scale, the instruments, measurements and technologies involved produce a particular kind of cell—one ready for market and regulatory systems as much as for healthcare. This means cells should be safe, potent, 'controlled,' and with market-driven characteristics. Yet human cells are living, biological entities which change in interaction with environments and conditions throughout all phases of sourcing, expansion and production. Cell phenotyping is thus critical for QA and production processes as well as for market-readiness. This involves particular practices of authenticating cells by source and by characteristics. Authentication-work organizes labor, validates specific administrative technologies, tracks transactions, establishes credibility according to perceived benchmarks, and conveys value in interaction with market demand. Using data from interviews and observations of a large-scale, multi-institutional cell manufacturing consortium, this paper examines processes and practices of authentication as a way to illustrate the unanticipated work that standardization does in an emerging biological industry.

T-cell immunotherapy an ethnographic case study in progress: a donors registry and a cell bank

Author: Violeta Argudo Portal (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) email
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Short abstract

Human based banks and biobanks, an ethnographic follow-up of the creation of a donors registry for virus-specific T cells and a cell bank in Spain. Some observations on the bio-objectification processes, 'technology identities" and organizational challenges.

Long abstract

This paper presents my doctoral work in progress in the broad area of human bioespecimens banks and biobanks as contemporary biomedical research infrastructures. How are human based biobanks/banks built up and maintained? which is the current role of these infrastructures for people's health and biomedical research? A research specifically placed in the field of T-cell immunotherapy in Spain.

The case study of my thesis involves a qualitative follow-up of a research project on the use of virus-specific T lymphocytes in allogenic hematopoietic cell transplantation recipients, a project developed by a Spanish public institution. The main part of the project entails the creation of a third party donors registry for virus-specific T-cells and a cell bank, informally coined as the "defenses bank." This panel provides the chance to share some incipient observations gathered during the design and development of this case study. An opportunity to collectively make sense of numerous issues that pop up from my thesis such as bio-objectification processes of the T lymphocytes and its mobilities, the absence of the word 'cancer' in this project in terms of 'technology identities' (Tomlin et al., 2013; Ulucanlar et al., 2013; Gardner et al., 2017), or other aspects linked to what does it mean to create an intermediary or 'in transition' cell bank? Problematizations closely linked to the conceptual tools referred in this panel and to other case studies developed throughout the STS study of the life sciences and health technologies.

Big Tissue: on mass producing body parts in vitro

Author: Neil Stephens (Brunel University London) email
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Short abstract

Big Tissue - the promise and achievement of significant upscale in tissue engineering and biofabrication - will be analysed through four case studies: cultured skin, cultured blood, cultured meat, and biofabricated animal products.

Long abstract

This paper reviews the notion of Big Tissue: the promise and achievement of significant upscale in tissue engineering and biofabrication. It explores four examples of Big Tissue: cultured skin, cultured blood, cultured meat, and a set of biofabricated animal products (synbio/fermentation produced leather, milk, and rhino horn). In doing it demonstrates how Big Tissue deploys multiple technologies and crosses multiple application sites (biomedicine, agro-food, conservation). The paper discusses how Big Tissue invokes both quantitative changes (more tissue) and qualitative changes (novel socio-technical relationships, ethics, and politics), and as such demands social science attention and analysis. Drawing upon extensive empirical work conducted within the cultured meat community, the paper will be an initial statement of what form this social science work should take, and how STS can inform it.

The promise and challenges of human and animal stem cell tissue economies

Authors: Elisabeth Abergel (Université du Québec à Montréal) email
Céline Lafontaine (Université de Montréal) email
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Short abstract

Our paper deals with the promises and challenges of the stem cell tissue economy in the area of bioprinted/biofabricated human and animal tissues. At the intersection between biomedical and agricultural applications we will show how both follow the logic of biomedicalisation and biocitizenship.

Long abstract

Our proposed paper will discuss the intersection of health and agriculture in the case of the biofabrication (including bioprinting) of human tissues and animal tissues. The distinction and similarities between therapeutic tissues and edible tissues will be highlighted, in particular how each function in the promise economy. The field of bioprinting in particular is characterized by a wide gap between the hopes it raises in the area personalized medicine (individualized tissues for drug testing and for nutritional/therapeutic treatment) and regenerative medicine (tissue and organ transplantation) and their concrete realization. In particular, the discussion will focus on the sociotechnical hurdles in both human bioprinting and animal cellular agriculture which highlight a futuristic and optimistic vision of potential applications. Because this field of biomedical innovation rests on a stem cell bioeconomy, we will explore the economic and social impacts of bioprinting/biofabrication as they relate to the status of bioprinted/biofabricated human and animal tissues. More concretely, we will show that current production of bioprinted human tissues is more in line with the pharmaceutical industry than regenerative medicine, and that in the case of in vitro meat, it is aligned with a cellular agriculture approach that include pharmaceutical applications. In both cases, we will explore the themes of regenerative medicine and cellular agriculture as serving the promise economy for communities of patients and eaters. Finally, we will examine how promissory discourse in both areas of research fall within the logics of biomedicalisation and neoliberal biocitizenship.

Scaffolding expertise: from expectations to interventions in the development of biofabrication

Author: Carlos Cuevas Garcia (Technical University of Munich) email
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Short abstract

Biofabrication is a novel field focused on the production of biological and biomedical constructs and scaffolds, but the development of the field itself requires solid scaffolding. The presentation will examine how different actors contribute to scaffolding the field of biofabrication.

Long abstract

This presentation will describe and reflect upon the multiple forms of intervention through which different actors are contributing to move forward the field of biofabrication. In the last years, biofabrication has gained attention from governments, funders, the media, and even from a few social scientists and philosophers because of the great promises attached to a key technology used in the field, namely 3D bioprinting. These include the production of drug testing devices that could contribute to reducing the use of animals in scientific research, the production of minor constructs that could be used as medical implants, and the extravagant "ultimate goal" of producing fully functional human organs. Yet, as leading figures of the field suggest, the field cannot be reduced to the use of a technology, and discussions about what will and will not be possible, and how, abound. In the advent of biofabrication and bioprinting, many actors other than scientists are required so that some of the possibilities offered by this field and this technology become reality. Drawing on nearly two years following the field of biofabrication (e.g. conducting interviews, attending seminars and specialist conferences, conducting document research) this presentation will identify different actors that are making or intending to make invaluable contributions to the development of biofabrication. Particular attention will be paid to the different forms in which these actors are intervening and intending to steer the field, and to the "multiple voices" that these actors recur to intending to move the field forward.

3D bioprinting for medical and enhancement purposes: scenarios and options for European policy

Author: Philip Boucher (European Parliament) email
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Short abstract

In this parliamentary research project, we explored current and future technical developments of 3D bioprinting technologies and their implications for European policy.

Long abstract

We examined the potential of 3D bioprinting technologies for medical and enhancement applications in the coming years. Our definition includes all 3D printed items that contain or are used very closely with living materials, such as implants, drugs, food, surgical tools and prostheses. We reviewed the state of these technologies and their potential further development, and considered their potential impacts. These impacts were further explored in stakeholder workshops with the support of a set of illustrated story-based scenarios. We then developed a set of options for European policymakers. In the presentation, I will also introduce the structure, functioning and aims of the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) and the Science and Technology Impact Assessment (STOA) Panel, which have a significant impact on the research process, before explaining the project and its findings.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.