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The WI-26 and WI-38 cell lines


Vaccine production uses my cell cultures
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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Together with Charlie Palmer at... who I still had very good relations, of course, and whose name was well-known – mine was not – and Paul Moorhead and I believe also TC Hsu, who I mentioned earlier as the... one of the discoverers of the fact that humans had 46 chromosomes, we wrote a letter in response to that in which we were pretty cheeky about what we believed, and this, in fact, was published in Science. That started a trend of publications in which the forces on both sides were battling each other.

I might say in concluding, although I'll address this issue more again, that we triumphed because as of today virtually every human virus vaccine in the world is made in my cells in either WI-38 or in other cell strains developed in other countries as a matter of national pride. In the United Kingdom, the identical kind of cell population is called MRC-5, used also for vaccine production. But it was my laboratory that pioneered the development... the use of preparation of vaccines in these cells and, as I'll explain later, was a school in fact for a year or more that trained many people from Europe and Asia in how to make vaccines in these cell population... and Russia as well, which is another part of the story.

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: Science, WI-38, MRC5, Charles Pomerat, Paul Moorhead, TC Hsu

Duration: 1 minute, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012