Embodiment and regenerative implants: a proposal for entanglement

Med Health Care Philos. 2024 Jun;27(2):241-252. doi: 10.1007/s11019-024-10199-7. Epub 2024 Mar 16.


Regenerative Medicine promises to develop treatments to regrow healthy tissues and cure the physical body. One of the emerging developments within this field is regenerative implants, such as jawbone or heart valve implants, that can be broken down by the body and are gradually replaced with living tissue. Yet challenges for embodiment are to be expected, given that the implants are designed to integrate deeply into the tissue of the living body, so that implant and body become one. In this paper, we explore how regenerative implants may affect the embodied experience of implant recipients. To this end, we take a phenomenological approach. First, we explore what insights the existing phenomenological and empirical literature on embodiment offers regarding the experience of illness and of living with regular (non-regenerative) implants and organ transplants. Second, we apply these insights to better understand how future implant recipients might experience living with regenerative implants. Third, we conclude that concepts and considerations from the existing phenomenological literature do not sufficiently address what it might be like to live with an implantable technology that, over time, becomes one with the living body. We argue that the interwovenness and intimate relationship of people living with regenerative implants should be understood in terms of 'entanglement'. Entanglement allows us to explore the complexities of human-technology relations, acknowledging the inseparability of humans and implantable technologies. Our theoretical foundations regarding the role of embodiment may be tested empirically once more people will be living with regenerative implants.

Keywords: Embodiment; Entanglement; Implants; Incorporation; Lived experience; Phenomenology; Regenerative medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Philosophy, Medical
  • Prostheses and Implants
  • Regenerative Medicine*