We explore the ethics and politics of building new forms of life from stem cells.

Welcome to Biomedical Research and the Politics of the Human, a research project led by sociologist Dr. Amy Hinterberger.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, our research explores the design and impact of new cell-based biotechnologies. Our project explores the pursuit of human-specific models of disease and development including how researchers can now make organ-like structures in a dish (called ‘organoids’), as well as techniques used to deliver and grow human tissues and cells in non-human animals. These techniques are straining the conventional ethical and political boundaries of biomedicine which have traditionally separated humans from other animals. Our explorations will contribute to increasing public understanding and awareness about the significance of stem cell technologies, along with informing scholarly and public debates about new biotechnologies.

Using qualitative empirical and ethnographic research methods, the project is designed as a social and ethical exploration into the changing relationship between humans, animals and biomedicine. We have adopted an innovative, comparative research design that extends from the lab bench to legislation and from ethics guidelines to committee meeting rooms.

Our data includes a wide range of sources including 1) interviews with scientists, lawyers, and policy-makers; 2) site-specific ethnographic case studies related to cellular in vitro and in vivo research practices; and 3) documentary and historical archives


We are a group of interdisciplinary social scientists and humanities scholars who research key sites in biomedicine and biotechnology. Our research makes more visible relations between humans and animals with a specific focus on the development of twentieth and twenty-first century cellular technologies.  Together we study these key sites in biomedical research, both in the laboratory and beyond in heath research regulation, to make more visible current transformations around who and what counts as a human research subject in biomedical research.