Many of us have donated tissue for research without knowing it, according to Joanna Radin, Ph.D., associate professor in the history of medicine. If we’ve had a blood test or biopsy, or given birth in a hospital, then frozen specimens from our bodies may live on in laboratory freezers—blood, biopsied tissue, a snippet of umbilical cord. As of 2015, there were an estimated 600 million frozen human tissue specimens in the United States, accumulating at the rate of 20 million per year. In a new scholarly history, Life on Ice: A History of New Uses for Cold Blood, Radin explores the terra incognita of the “invisible infrastructure” that preserves human tissue.
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