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Sociology in an Age of Genomic Instability: Copy Number Variation, Somatic Mosaicism, and the Fallen Genome

Genetics, Health and Society

ISBN: 978-1-78350-581-4, eISBN: 978-1-78350-568-5

ISSN: 1057-6290

Publication date: 16 July 2015

Abstract

Purpose

This study analyzes the rise of genome instability in the life sciences and traces the problematic of instability as it relates to the sociology of health. Genome instability is the study of how genomes change and become variable between generations and within organisms over the life span. Genome instability reflects a significant departure from the Platonic genome imagined during the Human Genome Project. The aim of this chapter is to explain and analyze research on copy number variation and somatic mosaicism to consider the implications of these sciences for sociologists interested in genomics.

Methodology/approach

This chapter draws on two multi-sited ethnographies of contemporary biomedical science and literature in the sociology of health, science, and biomedicine to document a shift in thinking about the genome from fixed and universal to highly variable and influenced by time and context.

Findings

Genomic instability has become a framework for addressing how genomes change and become variable between generations and within organisms over the life span. Instability is a useful framework for analyzing changes in the life sciences in the post-genomic era.

Research implications

Genome instability requires life scientists to address how differences both within and between individuals articulate with shifting disease categories and classifications. For sociologists, these findings have implications for studies of identity, sociality, and clinical experience.

Originality/value

This is the first sociological analysis of genomic instability. It identifies practical and conceptual implications of genomic instability for life scientists and helps sociologists delineate new approaches to the study of genomics in the post-genomic era.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgment

We would like to thank Stefan Timmermans, Daniel Navon, the members of the Institute for Society and Genetics, and the anonymous reviewers of this chapter for their insightful input. This research was supported by the Columbia University Center for Research on Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Psychiatric, Neurologic and Behavioral Genetics (NIH grant number P50HG007257) (ML), and a grant (ID: 39147) to the Metaknowledge Network by the John Templeton Foundation (HL).

Citation

Lappé, M. and Landecker, H. (2015), "Sociology in an Age of Genomic Instability: Copy Number Variation, Somatic Mosaicism, and the Fallen Genome", Genetics, Health and Society (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 16), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 157-186. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1057-629020150000016006

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015 Emerald Group Publishing Limited