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animals and science studies – humans and other animals in the laboratory Week 19 Amy Hinterberger Animals, Society and Culture, 2013-14. outline. 1) Animals as scientific objects– what does ‘humanisation’ mean in this context?

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animals and science studies – humans and other animals in the laboratory

Week 19

Amy Hinterberger

Animals, Society and Culture, 2013-14


1) Animals as scientific objects– what does ‘humanisation’ mean in this context?

2) Interspecies mixtures, chimeras and ‘animals containing human material’

3) Thinking critically across species lines

(Mouse MRI scan)

animals as scientific objects
animals as scientific objects
  • The use of animals in science is an objectifying process that has deep ethical implications
  • Using animals in science for speculation, classification and experimentation has a long history
  • Science in its practices is ambivalent about its use of animals.
i nto the laboratory science a s a social practice
into the laboratory: science as a social practice
  • ‘science and technology studies (STS) challenges any distinct line between science and society (Haraway 1990; Latour 1993; Jasanoff 2005)
  • The lab has hierarchical relationships (between scientists, technicians and animals)
  • The lab consists of ‘actants-in-relation’, including humans, nonhumans, technologies, the organic and the mechanic (Whatmore 1999)

Stem cell scientists at work at laboratory

in Oxford, 2012

m ixing human and non human animal cells dna and tissues
mixing human and non-human animal cells, DNA and tissues
  • Advances in the power of techniques involved in these studies are producing an ever widening range of human and animal mixtures.
  • With greater quantities of genetic sequences being manipulated and advances in embryo and stem cell technologies it is increasingly possible to replace animal material with human tissues and cells.
  • The resulting human-animal mixtures are used to support both basic research into human biology, health and disease as well as for developing and testing drugs and other therapies.
e rosion of species boundaries
erosion of species boundaries

Quote from chair of the recent UK’s Academy of Medical Sciences report, Animals Containing Human Material explains:

  • ‘The concept of significantly distinct species has waned as more organisms are genetically sequenced, more and more of these mixing experiments were done. We all got used to the idea that life’s a continuum. You can take something from yeast and put it in a mouse and something else from a chimpanzee and put it in a cow and more or less you can map things onto each other and they sort of work. Obviously there are big and important differences but an awful lot of the basic machinery is fundamentally unchanged (ACHM Chair)
example 1 proposal for cytoplasmic hybrid embryos or cybrid embryos
Example 1 – proposal for cytoplasmic hybrid embryos (or ‘cybrid embryos)

does a cybrid embryo count as human? This was a fundamentally important question since the HFEA only has jurisdiction over human embryos (not animal embryos).

  • November 2006 the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority or HFEA received two research license applications to derive stem cells from embryos created by somantic cell nuclear transfer by inserting human nuclei into enucleated non-human-animal eggs (rabbit or cow).
animals containing human material
‘animals containing human material’
  • 2011 publication by the Academy of Medical Sciences here in UK
  • Concluded that humanizing animals for the purposes of medical research does not create significant new ethical problems
  • (Required reading for seminar!)
animals containing human material1
‘animals containing human material’
  • The report examines the ethics of creating ‘human-animal chimeras’
  • Human-animal chimeras: contemporary entities, created in a laboratory, whose existence is legitimated on the basis of developments in the life sciences and the pursuit of human health.
  • Chimeras defined: new organism that results is made up of a patchwork of cells from the two different sources.
c himeras monsters and myths
chimeras: monsters and myths

The chimeras of Greek mythology were fire-breathing creatures composed of the parts of multiple animals.

Different figurations of human-animal mixtures point to how the human and animal divide is culturally produced and historically situated.

(Italian illustration of two half human, half dog chimera, 1668 (Wellcome Trust Images).

w hat is humanization
what is humanization?
  • Humanization here manifests in biology rather than behavior.
  • Likeness and unlikeness is mediated not by language or ancestry, but rather by cellular lineage and design.
  • Might help to contrast John Berger (who you have read) and Gail Davies (required reading this week) approaches to humanization
  • Hint: For Davies humanization is less about recuperating lost relationships than establishing new ones. The humanized mouse is a species remade, an experimental object that reproduces the human immune system for biomedical research and drug testing.
w hat is a humanised mouse
what is a humanised mouse?

The humanized mouse: ‘a complex experimental object’ in which mice are engrafted with human stem cells in the hope of reconstituting a human immune system for biomedical research and drug testing.’ (Davies 2012)

  • Davies explores relationship between species and spaces: the intimate geographies of corporeal equivalence with humans and the expansive geographies of translational research

A humanised mouse: looks

pretty mouse like , but it’s

what’s on the inside

that counts!

critical thinking across species lines
critical thinking across species lines
  • the separation of animals from humans has a long history (Dastonand Mitman 2008). These distinctions are rooted in culturally and historically specific classificatory systems particularly relating to species membership (Dupre 1993).
  • The kinds of animal matters: e.g. Mice and rats have come to stand in for models of human disease often conceptualised and utilised as ‘laboratory tools’ (Clarke and Fujimura 1992)
c ultures of biology
cultures of biology
  • Contemporary biology emphasizes both human similarity and dissimilarity to non-human animals.
  • Non-human primates have long personified humans, while rats and mice often represent the instrumentalization of modern genetics as they become akin to machines in the laboratory (Davies 2008, 449).
  • Chimeric experiments that involve primates are seen to be particularly problematic. For example the Academy of Medical Science report suggests that some chimeric research be banned outright, including injecting human stem cells into the brains of primates as it may it ‘engenders human-like behavior’ (AMS 2011).
c hallenge for sociology
challenge for sociology?
  • The increasing creation and use of human-animal mixtures in the biosciences require us to ask what do we mean when we say human, human-being, person or human species?
  • when entities are created that perturb species boundaries, assumptions of ‘humanness’ can no longer be taken foregranted resulting often in consternation and debate.
  • These moments provide key insight into how sociology might explore forms of life (both human and animal) and how they are articulated and enacted in society, law and policy.


(2011) ‘Animals containing human material’ Report from The Academy of Medical Sciences

[Note: you can review the entire report but please focus on Chapters 1, 2 and 5]


Davies, G. (2012) ‘What is a Humanized Mouse? Remaking the Species and Spaces of Translational Medicine’ Body and Society,. 18 (3-4): 126-155.


See you next week!

Human-Animal Hybrids Imagined in the 1930s