‘Synthetic Blood’: Entangling Politics and Biology

Julie Kent, Darian Meacham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
181 Downloads (Pure)


It is increasingly suggested that shortages in the supply chain for human blood could be met by the development of techniques to manufacture human blood ex vivo. These techniques fall broadly under the umbrella of synthetic biology. We examine the biopolitical context surrounding the ex vivo culture of red blood cells through the linked concepts of alienation, immunity, bio-value and biosecuritization. We engage with diverse meanings of synthetic blood, and questions about how the discourses of biosecurity and privatization of risk are linked to claims that the technology will address unmet needs and promote social justice. Through our discussion we contrast communitarian ideas that culturing red blood cells ‘extends the gift’ of adult blood donation with understandings of the immunitary logics that underpin the cord-blood economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-55
Number of pages28
JournalBody and Society
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019

Structured keywords

  • BrisSynBio
  • Bristol BioDesign Institute


  • alienation
  • biosecuritization
  • bio-value
  • blood economies
  • cultured red blood cells
  • gift relations
  • immune politics
  • stem cells
  • synthetic biology


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