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Melinda Bonnie Fagan (Philosophy Dpt, Utah), Stem Cell Models: Cell identity, Development, and Levels of Organization

2 May 2016 | 13 h 00 min - 14 h 00 min

Melinda Bonnie Fagan (Philosophy Department, University of Utah, USA)

  • Abstract:
    The concept of a stem cell is a peculiar one, uniting two very different
    ideas.  A cell is a well-characterized biological entity, observable via
    relatively simple technology and clearly distinguished from its
    environment and other cells by a bounding membrane.  A stem is the
    beginning of a process, the point of origin for something that is to be.
    A stem cell, then, is both entity and process; a cell defined by what it
    gives rise to rather than its observable traits.  In this talk, I present
    a minimal abstract model of the stem cell concept, and explore its
    implications for key questions in philosophy of biology.  The model
    explicates the general definition of ³stem cell² as a cell that has both
    the capacity to self-renew and the capacity to differentiate.  After
    presenting the model, I discuss three of its implications. (1) Stem cells
    can be individuated only relative to particular experimental methods and
    hypotheses, such that the concept in practice is diverse and
    context-dependent. (2) Stem cell concepts involve substantive assumptions
    about biological development, at organismal, cellular, and molecular
    levels.  The modeling approach offers a systematic framework for
    representing and comparing these concepts, via the topology of lineage
    trees. (3) The aforementioned assumptions about development have
    implications for theories of cancer, in particular the idea of ³cancer
    stem cells.²

Slides of the talk


2 May 2016
13 h 00 min - 14 h 00 min
Event Categories:
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Philosophy & Biology Seminar (Thomas Pradeu)


Institut de Biochimie et Génétique Cellulaires
146 rue Léo Saignat
Bordeaux, 33800 France
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