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Bionic bodies and interchangeable Organs: scientific practices and knowledge production about non-human hearts

Grant number: 15/08723-7
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): September 01, 2015
Effective date (End): July 31, 2016
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Anthropology
Principal Investigator:Heloisa Buarque de Almeida
Grantee:Marisol Marini
Supervisor: Jenny Slatman
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: Maastricht University, Maastricht (UM), Netherlands  
Associated to the scholarship:13/02389-2 - Bionic Bodies and Interchangeable Organs- scientific practices and knowledge production about non-human hearts, BP.DR


The goal of this research project is to investigate the production of scientific knowledge and techniques that emerge out of "artificial hearts" and non-humans organ transplants. The heart is an important organ of the human body, a fundamental "machine" to the functioning of the anatomy and the seat of the soul and feelings in certain cultural elaborations. However, recent scientific developments of machines known as "artificial hearts", as well current technological and biomedical conceptions and practices involved in the production or "artificial hearts" alter in significant ways the forms of material existence of the body and the very concept of the human being. The research takes as the main object the "Uni or Biventricular Assist Device", known as "artificial heart". It is a technology developed by a bioengineering foundation, which is part of a public hospital specialized in cardiology in São Paulo, Brazil. Based on ethnographic research in the laboratory where this device is being produced, I reflect on the developments of those technologies, seeking to understand what relation are being built, particularly the network established by all the actors involved in the machine production. Apart from the "artificial heart", we will also pay attention to other technologies and projects that are developed in the same laboratory, which appear to be connected in meaningful ways to the main object of the research. Blood pumps are technologies made to be used by humans, appropriate for individuals who have severe heart diseases and need to replace the "native" organ. There are not enough organs available to be transplanted compared to the numbers of patients who are waiting for a new heart. Therefore, alternative solutions are necessary to prolong individual lives. The main purpose of this device then is to provide survival to patients that are waiting for a new compatible healthy human heart to be transplanted. (AU)

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