Article ID: CBB771315477

Marketing Experimental Stem Cell Therapies in the UK: Biomedical Lifestyle Products and the Promise of Regenerative Medicine in the Digital Era (2020)


Stem cell research has attracted much public and biomedical anticipation centred on the possibility of using stem cells to treat various diseases and conditions, but the number of evidence-based therapies is currently limited. Numerous commercial direct-to-consumer (DTC) businesses are nonetheless marketing experimental stem cell therapies online for myriad medical conditions and aesthetic ailments, which has attracted critique due to safety and efficacy concerns. Existing research has largely focused on the problem of unproven therapies and regulatory pathways for addressing it. The proliferation of these experimental products must also be examined, however, in the broader socio-technological context of consumer culture and changing practices of knowledge-making in the digital era. DTC stem cell therapies have emerged as a new biomedical ‘lifestyle’ product that blurs the boundaries between ‘science,’ ‘medicine,’ and ‘consumer culture.’ In using, conceptualising and marketing stem cells, commercial businesses build on and commercially co-opt alternative epistemic and ontological frames that challenge scientific medicine. They advance promissory narratives about their potential that tap on cultural aspirations around the future of medicine and health. This is key, not only for understanding how and why these therapies have proliferated but also in conceptualising what the ‘problem’ around them actually is.

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Authors & Contributors
Beltrame, Lorenzo
Ernst, Waltraud
Hawgood, Barbara J.
Franklin, Sarah
Green, Monica H.
Stephens, Neil
Science as Culture
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Social Studies of Science
Journal of Medical Biography
Journal of Global History
Mefisto: Rivista di medicina, filosofia, storia
Oxford University Press
Duke University Press
W. W. Norton & Co.
Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino
Medicine and society
Stem cells
Therapeutic practice; therapy; treatment
Public health
United Kingdom
Great Britain
European Union
21st century
20th century
19th century
20th century, late
18th century
20th century, early
UK Stem Cell Bank

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