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'Our knowledge about causes of death in old age is a black box'


Rita Hayworth's daughter and the Alzheimer's Association
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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In the case of Alzheimer's disease, they did a wonderful thing for the benefit of their field when they signed on the daughter of Rita Hayworth, the famous American actress, beauty, who was married to an Indian potentate. I don't recall his name at the moment, but their daughter became the spokesperson for the Alzheimer's Disease Association many years ago, because Rita Hayworth did indeed die with Alzheimer's disease. And that was a brilliant move. It, in fact, mirrored what occurred years earlier when the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis – in the United States at least – had President Roosevelt as one of its spokespeople.

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: Alzheimer's Disease Association, Rita Hayworth

Duration: 52 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012