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HeLa cells


Studying the transformation of normal cells into cancerous cells
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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So that we now have the technology for subculturing cells for long periods of time, freezing them or preserving them, so that they can be resurrected at a much later date.  That was about the state of the technology at the time that I am now discussing. In addition to which I have already mentioned, but will re-emphasis the observation that rarely, with human cells in culture from normal tissues, will a transformation occur that means that the normal cells that you've cultured now show cancer cell properties, namely the ability to undergo unlimited cell cultivations, to have the appearance or the cytology of cancer cells, to have biochemical properties of cancer cells, etc. So this phenomenon is very important. It was recognised at that time as being important. Why? Because if you could understand how a normal cell suddenly transformed into a cancer cell, you would have a new approach to doing research on cancer biology. You wouldn't have to use whole animals, certainly not humans, but you now had the possibility of investigating cancer at the cellular level in bottles, which allowed for all kinds of experiments. So that concept has to be understood in respect to the importance of what we call transformation.

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: human cell culture, normal tissue, transforamtion, cancer cells, cytology

Duration: 1 minute, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012