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You are a biogerontologist whether you like it or not!


Establishing criteria for the karyology of our cell cultures
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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Next events centred around establishing criteria for the karyology of these cells, which was thought to be very significant at that time. It was thought to be significant because of the worry that if the chromosome constitution of a normal cell changes after many subcultivations, as did happen in the later subcultivations of WI-38, that it would represent a threat and that it might appear to the genesis of a cancer cell population. That turned out not to be true, but there were a number of meetings held over the years to establish standards for chromosome analysis, which required the dedication of one or more individuals and pharmaceutical companies to do chromosome studies before the vaccine was released.

It is almost impossible to understand why chromosome standards were never set for monkey kidney or chicken cells; they were demanded of our human diploid cells. There are a number of other bizarre inconsistencies in the understanding of scientists in respect to what... needs to be approved and what doesn't have to be approved. The argument with the monkey cells was: well, we've been using monkey cells for so many years and there doesn't seem to be any cancer occurring in the recipients – and that's highly questionable because of SV40 – then they're safe. It was that kind of argument. Well, we had absolute proof that these cells weren't cancers because nobody in their right mind would inoculate primary monkey kidney cells into a terminal cancer patient, where we... in respect to what is possible to happen concerning unwanted viruses, dangerous viruses. But we had no trouble introducing normal human cells into cancer patients and... which we learned that there was no problem because it simply disappeared. And no one ever did that with primary monkey kidney cells. In any case, I don't want to belabour that point, but it's an essential point and had advocates on both sides for a number of years until the other side eventually collapsed.

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: karyology, normal cells, chromosome analysis, vaccine, cancer cell, human diploid cells, monkey cells, SV40, virus

Duration: 2 minutes, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012