Within and without the medical profession, many believe we are at the eve of a medical breakthrough of tremendous proportions by the advent of regenerative medical techniques using revolutionary stem cell technologies. They promise much more efficacious treatment of chronic, non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardio-vascular conditions than we can use today. The new technologies reverse processes of tissue degeneration and restore its function. Since the first tentative clinical application of bone marrow transplantation in 1959, the idea of regenerative medicine has advanced from speculative fiction to medical reality.
The introduction of promising new forms of treatment, however, is not a matter of technology only, but will, to a large degree, be dependent on the public’s consent, which will be affected in many ways by communication. Primarily through electronic communication, that is computers and the Internet, the communication environment we all live in has changed, in the last three decades, as profoundly as medical technology has. In the same time, people at least in affluent societies have become much more skeptical of technological innovation than they used to be. This concerns innovation within and without medicine and evokes powerful cultural narratives of the creation of human beings by human beings, such as Mary Shelley’s 1818 science fiction novel Frankenstein.
As the clinical possibilities of regenerative medical technology emerge, it is critical to understand how skepticism, outrage and resistance develop. The planned study therefore investigates the media’s and the public’s reaction to regenerative medicine while this technology is in its initial phases.
Peter J. Schulz is Professor for Communication Theories and Health Communication at the Faculty of Communication Sciences and Director of the Institute of Communication and Health at the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI). He currently holds several research project grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation, among them one for a doctoral school for Communication & Health, and other funding bodies (including among others, King´s Fund, UK, CancerBackup, UK and EU) in the area of health communication. Prior to his collaboration within the USI, he studied at the University of Frankfurt, Münster, Cracow, Freibourg in Breisgau and Eichstätt. His recent research and publications have focused on consumer health literacy and empowerment, argumentation in health communications, and cultural factors in health. He is author of more than 60 scientific journal articles and has published 9 books. His latest publication is Theories of Communication Sciences (four volumes, Sage, London, 2010). He is also editor, in collaboration with Paul Cobley (London), of Handbooks of Communication Sciences (22 volumes, Mouton & De Gruyter). Since 2010 he has been Associate Editor of the journal Patient Education & Counseling (Elsevier). Furthermore, he has been part of the editorial and advisory board of various international scientific journals. Together with 'Vish' Viswanath, Harvard University, he is editor of the Encyclopedia of Health Communication (Blackwell). He is a member of numerous national and international commissions at research institutions. Since October 2011 he is also a member of the Swiss National Science Foundation.