Treating pigs: Balancing standardisation and individual treatments in translational neonatology research

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This paper explores how animal modelling is negotiated and practised in the field of translational neonatology research in Denmark. Based on ethnography from a biomedical research centre, NEOMUNE, in which veterinary and medical scientists worked on developing a ‘preterm pig brain model’, we examine how they strived to balance traditional scientific norms of standardisation against clinical researchers’ requests for clinical care in the modelling practice. We develop the notion of ‘patientising’ to capture how the research piglets are made to model not only the biological consequences of prematurity, but also the suffering of the human patient entitled to individual care. Based on this ethnographic fieldwork we argue that the demand for clinical relevance in translational research highlights the animal laboratory as also being a “moral laboratory” (Mattingly, 2014). In seeking to align research piglets and human infants, the researchers engage closely interdependent scientific and moral uncertainties as they work out the proper relations between the suffering of the research animal and the health of the human infant.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)349–367
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • animal models, moral reasoning, multispecies-ethnography, neonatology, suffering, translational research

ID: 187011511