Stems and Standards: Social Interaction in the Search for Blood Stem Cells

Journal of the History of Biology 43 (1):67 - 109 (2010)
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Abstract

This essay examines the role of social interactions in the search for blood stem cells, in a recent episode of biomedical research. Linked to mid-20th century cell biology, genetics and radiation research, the search for blood stem cells coalesced in the 1960s and took a developmental turn in the late 1980s, with significant ramifications for immunology, stem cell and cancer biology. Like much contemporary biomedical research, this line of inquiry exhibits a complex social structure and includes several prominent scientific successes, recognized as such by participating researchers. I use personal interviews and the published record to trace the social interactions crucial for scientific success in this episode. All recognized successes in this episode have two aspects: improved models of blood cell development, and new interfaces with other lines of research. The narrative of the search for blood stem cells thus yields a robust account of scientific success in practice, which generalizes to other scientific episodes and lends itself to expansion to include wider social contexts

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Melinda Bonnie Fagan
University of Utah

Citations of this work

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