Around , scientists learned to observe cellular activity in the lab and then pursued the immortality of cell lines, a project that resulted in more than one notorious fiasco.
Mass reproduction of cells was the obvious next step at mid-century and led to the polio vaccine. A widely distributed cell line HeLa derived from a Baltimore woman with cervical cancer made it possible for scientists to standardize their research, but also demonstrated how lines could grow out of control.
- Culturing life : how cells became technologies / Hannah Landecker.
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Most recently, scientists learned in the late 20th century how to hybridize cells, mixing ingredients from various species. Landecker at times interprets to distraction—even minor aspects of her story are weighed for their significance—but she is a keen observer of scientific practice. View Full Version of PW.
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Print Flyer Recommend to Librarian. This is the question at the heart of Hannah Landecker's book. She shows how cell culture changed the way we think about such central questions of the human condition as individuality, hybridity, and even immortality and asks what it means that we can remove cells from the spatial and temporal constraints of the body and "harness them to human intention.
Rather than focus on single discrete biotechnologies and their stories--embryonic stem cells, transgenic animals--Landecker documents and explores the wider genre of technique behind artificial forms of cellular life. She traces the lab culture common to all those stories, asking where it came from and what it means to our understanding of life, technology, and the increasingly blurry boundary between them.
The technical culture of cells has transformed the meaning of the term "biological," as life becomes disembodied, distributed widely in space and time. Once we have a more specific grasp on how altering biology changes what it is to be biological, Landecker argues, we may be more prepared to answer the social questions that biotechnology is raising.