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No stranger to the Wistar Institute


The Wistar rat colony
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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The Institute was a fascinating place. I went there as a graduate student, because at that time I was assigned to look at an infection in the animal colony. The Wistar Institute had a world famous animal colony of rats, of albino rats. In fact, virtually every albino rat colony in the world is derivative of a pair of rats from that source. Those rats were originally developed, if you will, by a woman scientist in the late 1800s, early 1900s, from two... from a pair of Philadelphia albino sewer rats. And they had profound impact on research over the next 60 years. I won't go into those details because they're not appropriate for my... for the discussion. But it's important to mention that, because they were a valuable resource and because they were known to have an infection called middle ear infection and there was some suspicion that these mycoplasmas might be involved as the ideological agent of that ailment.

So I set up a small lab at the Wistar Institute rat colony and I was also given a laboratory in the main building. The main building had a very interesting activity that was its major activity that occupied almost a single floor of this three-storey building. The rest of the building was virtually empty, except for a fascinating museum on the first floor – that I think I overlooked in one of my earlier statements – that is, that I had been introduced to the Wistar Institute as a high school student, because this… this museum housed something that interested a lot of students who whispered it to each other and that's how it was usually known to be of interest.

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: The Wistar Institute

Duration: 2 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012