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Why a cell culture would fail


The walk-in incubator
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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Cultures that I had established from human foetuses as described earlier, those foetuses arrived at erratic periods of time and, of course, I kept records of when they arrived in the labs and how many splits or population doublings were... they were undergoing. And these cultures were kept in an incubator, of course, at human body temperature. Because so many people were working with cell cultures at the Wistar Institute at that time, although this was certainly not unusual, we had what was called a 'walk-in incubator'. Ordinarily you would have an incubator about half the size of a refrigerator, but we had what was called a walk-in incubator, which as the name suggests, you could actually walk into as a room. It was kept at that temperature, body temperature, which was tolerable for many minutes, when you walked in there, and each researcher had several shelves assigned to them on which their cultures sat. That walk-in room happened to be next to my laboratory and that's where I kept these cultures.

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: 1 minute, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012