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Fulfilling Koch's postulates


Demonstrating that our cultured cells were normal
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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We wrote the paper and because Ted Puck was one of the few people working with what allegedly were normal human cells, although he did not identify them as such, as we did thoroughly, as thoroughly as could be done in those days... I should also say that one of the things that we did that you cannot easily do today because of regulations and ethical considerations, although this was not at that time considered to be unethical... In order to demonstrate that our normal cells were indeed normal and not... had no cancer cell properties – and you'll find this in the original paper described – we took one or more of our human diploid cell strains and, through our surgical contacts at Pen, at the hospital, we inoculated, or they inoculated into terminal cancer patients – cancer patients who had no more than six months to live – in one arm, inoculated under the skin, a million born normal human cells and on the other arm a million or more HeLa cells.

Now, HeLa cells, remember, are a transformed population with significant cancer cell properties and in fact derive from cancer tissue from a human cervical carcinoma. And what we discovered is what we hoped to find, in fact, and that was that the HeLa cells inoculated that side began to grow in a tiny nodule as big a matchstick head and then they were excised surgically so that no damage, no further damage, was done to these patients who did indeed volunteer or had their legal guardians approve of what we were doing; this was not done sub rosa. On the other arm, we found that the normal human cells simply dissipated; they produced no nodule and they just disappeared, which was further evidence, at that time in interpreting these kinds of events, of the normality of these cells.

Leonard Hayflick (b. 1928), the recipient of several research prizes and awards, including the 1991 Sandoz Prize for Gerontological Research, is known for his research in cell biology, virus vaccine development, and mycoplasmology. He also has studied the ageing process for more than thirty years. Hayflick is known for discovering that human cells divide for a limited number of times in vitro (refuting the contention by Alexis Carrel that normal body cells are immortal), which is known as the Hayflick limit, as well as developing the first normal human diploid cell strains for studies on human ageing and for research use throughout the world. He also made the first oral polio vaccine produced in a continuously propogated cell strain - work which contributed to significant virus vaccine development.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: HeLa cells, Theodore Puck

Duration: 2 minutes, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012