Stem cell research is considered one of the most promising and revolutionary branches of contemporary biomedicine. However, it is also a much contested socio-political issue, as one of the most relevant sources of stem cells is the human embryo. So, the alleged moral status of the human embryo (i.e. embryo question) is opposed to the needs and hopes of (ill) people (i.e. therapeutic promise). This key polarization overlaps and informs another one, that between human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and adult stem cells (ASCs). In the Italian stem cell debate, the hESCs/ ASCs opposition and the framing of their therapeutic potentials have embedded the ethical quandaries related to embryo research in an epistemic discourse regarding the biology of stem cells. Pluripotency, regarded as the source of the primacy of hESCs in prospecting therapeutic advances, was framed and reframed in several (strategic) ways according to the discursive tactics of the actors involved in the debate. In this paper I shall show how the framings of therapeutic effectiveness of these competing stem cell sources were linked to value orientations and “imagined” social orders and how, by articulating an epistemic discourse on the biology of stem cell in general, and on the meaning of pluripotency in particular, public communication of stem cell science was used as a political means to influence policy-making. Discourse and frame analysis focused on the use of articulations of pluripotency was conducted on mass media (on the three most widely-circulating Italian newspapers and on relevant fora for actors involved in the debate such as newspapers strongly engaged in the controversy, websites of various civic, religious and scientific associations and so on) and on documents of bioethical committees and regulatory agencies and institutions. Mass media are regarded as spaces of visibility, public arenas crucially positioned in the public sphere, where the actors discursively link their ideals of social order with the frames of different stem cell sources. The framing of pluripotency is considered as an epistemic legitimizing device to support imagined social orders both in mass media discourses and then in policy discourses developed in regulatory arenas, where discourses are translated into rules and norms that stabilize research trajectories and, accordingly, enforce a specific view of social order.

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The framing of pluripotency and its political use
The public communication of stem cell science and the regulation of stem cell research in italy

Lorenzo Beltrame   Universit√ɬ† degli Studi di Trento

Stem cell research is considered one of the most promising and revolutionary branches of contemporary biomedicine. However, it is also a much contested socio-political issue, as one of the most relevant sources of stem cells is the human embryo. So, the alleged moral status of the human embryo (i.e. embryo question) is opposed to the needs and hopes of (ill) people (i.e. therapeutic promise). This key polarization overlaps and informs another one, that between human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and adult stem cells (ASCs). In the Italian stem cell debate, the hESCs/ ASCs opposition and the framing of their therapeutic potentials have embedded the ethical quandaries related to embryo research in an epistemic discourse regarding the biology of stem cells. Pluripotency, regarded as the source of the primacy of hESCs in prospecting therapeutic advances, was framed and reframed in several (strategic) ways according to the discursive tactics of the actors involved in the debate. In this paper I shall show how the framings of therapeutic effectiveness of these competing stem cell sources were linked to value orientations and “imagined” social orders and how, by articulating an epistemic discourse on the biology of stem cell in general, and on the meaning of pluripotency in particular, public communication of stem cell science was used as a political means to influence policy-making. Discourse and frame analysis focused on the use of articulations of pluripotency was conducted on mass media (on the three most widely-circulating Italian newspapers and on relevant fora for actors involved in the debate such as newspapers strongly engaged in the controversy, websites of various civic, religious and scientific associations and so on) and on documents of bioethical committees and regulatory agencies and institutions. Mass media are regarded as spaces of visibility, public arenas crucially positioned in the public sphere, where the actors discursively link their ideals of social order with the frames of different stem cell sources. The framing of pluripotency is considered as an epistemic legitimizing device to support imagined social orders both in mass media discourses and then in policy discourses developed in regulatory arenas, where discourses are translated into rules and norms that stabilize research trajectories and, accordingly, enforce a specific view of social order.

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