Shifting paradigms? Reflections on regenerative medicine, embryonic stem cells and pharmaceuticals

Wainwright, S.; Michael, Mike and Williams, C.. 2008. Shifting paradigms? Reflections on regenerative medicine, embryonic stem cells and pharmaceuticals. Sociology Of Health & Illness, 30(6), pp. 959-974. ISSN 0141-9889 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Will human embryonic stem (hES) cells lead to a revolutionary new regenerative medicine? We begin to answer this question by drawing on interviews with scientists and clinicians from leading labs and clinics in the UK and the USA, exploring their views on the bench-bedside interface in the fields of hES cells, neuroscience and diabetes. We employ Bourdieu's concepts of field, habitus and capital in order to understand stem cell science and cell transplantation. We also build on research on the sociology of expectations, and explore expectations of pharmaceutical approaches in hES research through our concept of 'expectational capital'. In the process we discuss emerging expectations within stem cell research, most especially the 'disease in a dish' approach, where hES cells will be used as tools for unravelling the mechanisms of disease to enable the development of new drugs. We argue that experts' persuasive promises advance their interests in the uncertain stem cell field, and explore how this performative strategy might stabilise the emerging 'disease in a dish' model of translational research.

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Identification Number (DOI):


pharmaceuticals, embryonic stem cells, expectations, Bourdieu, cell transplant

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology > Centre for Study of Invention and Social Process (CSISP) [2003-2015]



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Date Deposited:

21 Jan 2010 16:09

Last Modified:

16 Dec 2016 17:18

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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