The Controversial Molecular Turn in Prenatal Diagnosis. CGH-array Clinical Approaches and Biomedical Platforms

Mauro Turrini


Abstract: How and why are new gene-array techniques, which have been successfully introduced in medical contexts such as “post-natal” genetics, marked by uncertainty and dispute when they change context and are used in prenatal medicine? The so-called “molecular turn” in prenatal diagnosishas created a controversy that still divides the genetic community worldwide.  The availability of an increased variety of high resolution-genetic data, including uncertain findings, divides the genetic community regarding production, treatment, and articulation with the older technologies, cytogenetics. Drawing on the methodological and conceptual framework of the “biomedical platform” (Keating and Cambrosio 2003), this paper intends to analyse these new biomedical molecular entities in the space where biology and medicine, science and technology, innovation and routine are intertwined. Empirical data from an ethnographic thick description of the intense debate that took place between Italian geneticists is used to analyze the different ways in which the material and immaterial elements of these platforms are organized. The different positions that emerge from the debate are traced back to two positions regarding the overlapping of biomedical work, technology transfer and research. This case study does not only reconstruct the fast-paced advancements of genetics in prenatal medicine, but also sheds light on the important questions at stake in structuring the expansive movement of molecular biomedicine.

Keywords: genetics and society; prenatal diagnosis; molecular turn; biomedical platform; biomedicine and innovation.

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