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Shaping Vulnerable Bodies at the Thin Boundary between Environment and Organism: Skin, DNA Repair, and a Genealogy of DNA Care Strategies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 August 2015

Alexander von Schwerin*
Affiliation:
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science E-mail: schwerin@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de

Argument

This paper brings together the history of risk and the history of DNA repair, a biological phenomenon that emerged as a research field in between molecular biology, genetics, and radiation research in the 1960s. The case of xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), an inherited hypersensitivity to UV light and, hence, a disposition to skin cancer will be the starting point to argue that, in the 1970s and 1980s, DNA repair became entangled in the creation of new models of the human body at risk – what is here conceptually referred to as the vulnerability aspect of body history – and new attempts at cancer prevention and enhancement of the body associated with the new flourishing research areas of antimutagenesis and anticarcinogenesis. The aim will be to demonstrate that DNA repair created special attempts at disease prevention: molecular enhancement, seeking to identify means to increase the self-repair abilities of the body at the molecular level. Prevention in this sense meant enhancing the body's ability to cope with the environmental hazards of an already toxic world. This strategy has recently been adopted by the beauty industry, which introduced DNA care as a new target for skin care research and anti-aging formulas.

Type
Topical Section: Surfaces in the History of Modern Science: Inscribing, Separating, Enclosing
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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