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The Social Life of ‘Scaffolds’: Examining human rights in regenerative medicine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-120
Number of pages26
JournalScience, Technology and Human Values
Issue number1
Early online date15 Oct 2017
Accepted/In press4 Aug 2017
E-pub ahead of print15 Oct 2017
Published1 Jan 2018


King's Authors


Technologies for enhancement of the human body historically have taken the form of an apparatus: a technological device inserted in, or appended to, the human body. The margins of these devices were clearly discernible and materially circumscribed allowing the distinction between the corporeality of the human body and the “machine” to remain both ontologically and materially secure. This dualism has performed some important work for human rights theorists, regulators and policy makers: enabling each to imagine they can establish where the human ends and the other begins. New regenerative products such as Infuse™ and Amplify™ subsist as animal-derived scaffolds seeded with growth hormone implanted within a prosthetic device. They are much more materially complex and their identities thus remain open to contestation. Following Jain (2006), I thus attend closely to their social lives, particularly the stories that are told about them and how these are employed to construct understandings of what kind of a phenomenon they are: systemic drug, biologic, or combinatorial medical device. The significance of this classificatory project is revealed in the final section, which explores how these stories shape understandings of “product failure,” liability and causation when such products overflow their material and ontological categorization and their recipients become disturbingly “more-than-human.”

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