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The immortality of cancer cells


Studies of normal human tissue
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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So my next requirement was to find normal human tissue and one of the major problems was that by this time it was known that tissue taken from some human adults, which you might acquire during surgery, would contain viruses that were either unknown or already known. There are some viruses like measles or mumps, that can hide in normal cells, once having recovered from those ailments, and, of course that would foul up my work. If that happened, I would be misled. It was also known that these kinds of indigenous viruses, as they were called, rarely, if ever, found – although I should qualify that and say that it’s rare rather than never – found in human embryonic tissue. That's tissue from human embryos. Consequently I was determined to get tissue from human embryos in order to continue these studies.

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: normal human tissue, indigenous viruses, embryonic tissue

Duration: 1 minute, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012