The Case of a Nasal Growth from the Spine: What Can Autologous Adult Stem Cell Interventions Tell Us About the Self?

The market with autologous stem cell transplants is a rapidly growing industry in Australia and internationally. Despite limited scientific evidence justifying their use, autologous adult stem cells (ASCs, stem cells derived from the patient’s own body) are increasingly being promoted for use in the treatment of a range of medical conditions. These autologous ASCs are being offered as ‘innovative therapies’, outside the context of clinical trials and with no guarantees of the therapeutic value and safety of such interventions. The promotion of autologous ASC interventions seems to be underpinned by a range of assumptions about corporeality, sameness, immunity and safety. In particular, the notion that stem cells derived from the patient’s own body will not cause harm to the patient. However, some autologous ASC interventions challenge such clear-cut assumptions about corporeality and safety. This paper explores a case of an 18-year-old woman who has undergone an autologous ASC intervention in the U.S. She had autologous mucosal stem cells transplanted into her spine to treat her paraplegia. Instead of renewing her normative motor/sensory function, a tumour-like nasal tissue growth occurred on her back. This case appears to highlight both the complexities and the corporal limits of the body. Building on Rosalyn Diprose’s concept of corporeal generosity and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s conceptualisation of the body as an assemblage of Self and Non-Self, I will explore what autologous ASC interventions imply about the Self, its complexities and boundaries.


Dr Tereza Hendl is a philosopher interested in questions regarding the ethics and sustainability of emerging biomedical technologies. She has completed her PhD at Macquarie University, with a dissertation interrogating ethical aspects of sex selection for social reasons. Her paper "A Feminist Critique of Justifications for Sex Selection" was awarded the 2015 Max Charlesworth Prize by the Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law. She currently holds the positions of a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Sydney and an Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne, working on the ARC-funded Linkage Project “Regulating autologous stem cell therapies in Australia.”

Date & time

Tue 13 Mar 2018, 4.30–5.45pm


Theatrette, Sir Roland Wilson Building


Dr Tereza Hendl (University of Sydney)

Event series


Penny Brew
+61 2 6125 4357


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