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Local biologicals and the politics of standardization: Making ethical pluripotent stem cells in the United Kingdom and Japan

Mikami, K   Stephens, N

BioSocieties   11 (2) 220–239

DOI: 10.1057/biosoc.2015.35

June 2016   (First published online September 2015)

http://www.palgrave-journals.com/biosoc/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/biosoc201535a.html

In 2003, the United Kingdom and Japan had adopted relatively similar approaches to human embryonic stem cells science. The decade since has witnessed significant divergence in their national policies as differing responses to ethical questions about research use of human embryos emerged.
The United Kingdom pursued a vision of ‘institutionally accredited stem cells’ by reconfiguring the role of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and establishing the UK Stem Cell Bank.
In contrast, Japan followed a vision of ‘technically advanced stem cells’ by developing induced pluripotent stem cells and supporting its research programs enthusiastically.

Our research – drawing upon extensive fieldwork in both countries – demonstrates the socio-technical arrangements developed to instantiate these visions and articulates their divergence while at the same time revealing their connectedness. This relationship becomes progressively evident as the two visions face each other in the politics of standardization in global stem cell science. Drawing on Franklin’s concept of local/global biological, we discuss the connectedness of the two local arrangements. In so doing, we explicate the future challenges for both countries as they need to demonstrate the significance of their visions in this global enterprise, while the success of one would likely undermine the significance of the other.

This article is open access and can also be downloaded on Edinburgh Research Explorer.