Mapping Stem Cell Innovation in Action (November 2004 - October 2006)
ESRC Stem Cell Initiative - Award No: RES-340-25-0003
This research focuses on translational research, in other words the elucidate some of the complex processes whereby collaboration
interactions between ‘the bench and the bedside’, particularly and translational research is ‘made’ possible and highlight ways in
the prospects and problems of stem cell therapies and cell which scientists/clinicians shift between identifying and promoting
transplantation in the ﬁelds of diabetes and liver disease. The study collaboration on the one hand, and not over-selling the prospects of
explores and contributes to the social science themes of ethics, translational research on the other hand.
expectations, the body, and science and technology studies. This
More broadly, this study has contributed to public and
ethnographic project draws upon data from: observations in labs and
professional debate about stem cell research and therapies through
at scientiﬁc and medical conferences of ‘stem cell science in action’;
a comprehensive dissemination programme which entails over forty
two ethics discussion groups with scientists and clinicians; and
presentations to diverse audiences, including scientists, clinicians,
over 60 interviews with scientists, clinicians and key stakeholders
and ‘publics’ (e.g. at the ISSCR conference in Toronto; and the Dana
in both the UK and the USA. The research is a multidisciplinary
Centre, Science Museum, UK); and to social science conferences
collaboration between Professor Alan Cribb (Ethics & Public Policy,
on sociology, science studies and geography (in the UK, Europe,
KCL), Professor Bobbie Farsides (Bioethics, Sussex), Professor
and the USA). In addition, two multidisciplinary workshops on
Nigel Heaton (Liver Transplantation, King’s College Hospital/
‘expectations’ and ‘ethics’ in the the ﬁeld of stem cell therapies
KCL), Professor Mike Michael (Sociology of Science & Technology,
further engage with a wide variety of stakeholders. A comprehensive
Goldsmiths), Dr Steven Wainwright (Medical Sociology, KCL) & Dr
brieﬁng paper which highlights the ﬁndings from our research will be
Clare Williams (Medical Sociology, KCL).
widely disseminated in January 2007.
The research has produced a useful social scientiﬁc analysis that
For further information on our project and on the ESRC Stem
reﬂects the dynamic nature of contemporary stem cell science. We
Cell Initiative see: http://www.york.ac.uk/res/sci/projects/
have published theoretically informed and empirically grounded
papers on ethics and embryonic stem (ES) cell science; on scientists’
expectations of ES cells as a potential cure for diabetes; on scientists’ Publications
genetic practices and changing expectations on embryonic stem Wainwright S.P. (2005) Can stem cells cure Parkinson’s disease? Embryonic steps
cell therapy for diabetes; and on images of the transformation of toward a regenerative brain medicine. British Journal of Neuroscience Nursing 1 (3):
ES cells in the beta cell lab. In this short summary we highlight 61-66.
two main sets of ﬁndings on ethics and expectations. Firstly, we are Wainwright S.P., Williams C., Michael M., Farsides B. & Cribb, A. (2006) From
one of the ﬁrst research teams to analyse how scientists involved bench to bedside? Biomedical scientists’ expectations of stem cell science as a
future therapy for diabetes. Social Science & Medicine 63 2052-2064.
in embryonic stem cell science practice ethics in the lab. In brief,
we explored three key issues: what individual scientists themselves Wainwright S.P., Williams C., Michael, M., Farsides, B. & Cribb A. (2006) Ethical
boundary-work in the embryonic stem cell laboratory. Sociology of Health & Illness,
view as ethical sources of human embryos and stem cells; their Special Issue, de Vries, R. et al (Ed) ‘The View from Here: Bioethics and the Social
perceptions of human embryos and stem cells; and how scientists Sciences’. (in press).
perceive regulatory frameworks in stem cell research. We argue that Wainwright S.P., Williams C., Persaud S.J. & Jones, P.M. (2006) Real science,
these dimensions of laboratory practice are all examples of ‘ethical biological bodies and stem cells: constructing images of beta cells in the biomedical
boundary-work’ where our scientists present themselves as ethical, science lab. Social Theory & Health. (in press).
as well as expert, actors. Practical ethics here takes the form of a Wainwright S.P., Williams C., Michael M., Farsides B. & Cribb A. (2007) Ethical
number of choices over how to conduct oneself in a complicated boundary-work in the embryonic stem cell laboratory. In de Vries, R. et al (Ed) The
political, moral and epistemic context where such choices include View from Here: Bioethics and the Social Sciences, SHI Monograph, Oxford: Blackwell.
the use of different sources of embryos, and deferral to regulatory
Wainwright S.P., Williams C., Michael, M., Farsides, B. & Cribb, A. (2007)
frameworks. Secondly, we are also amongst the ﬁrst group of social
Remaking the body? Scientists’ genetic discourses and practices as examples of
scientists to present empirical data on biomedical scientists’ views changing expectations on embryonic stem cell therapy for diabetes. New Genetics &
on the problems and prospects of stem cell science and therapy Society (in press).
in the potential move from bench to bedside. We identiﬁed two Wainwright, S.P & Williams, C. (2008) The Body, Biomedicine & Society: Reﬂections on
main discourses on expectations for the translation of research from High-Tech Medicine Palgrave Innovative Health Technology [Research Monograph]
bench to bedside in the area of diabetes: institutional inﬂuences Book Series, Editors: Andrew Webster & Sally Wyatt, London: Palgrave
on interactions between scientists and clinicians; and stem cell (forthcoming).
science itself as a major barrier to potential future therapies. We