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A surprising observation: older cell cultures stop growing


Subcultivation of fibroblast cells
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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As the weeks turned... went by and I accumulated – I don't recall specifically – let's say 20 cultures from 20 separate embryonic donors, foetal embryos. It's also important to say that during these during these culturing procedures, I learned that the tissue that was best was lung tissue. It was best because it gave rise to a cell type called 'a fibroblast'. That cell is found universally in our anatomy and the anatomy of other animals. It's a structural cell, although it was considered for years to be a kind of weed compared to specific cells like liver cells or kidney cells or heart cells that have specific functions. Fibroblasts are not weeds. They have enormous biochemical... biochemical reactions and produce substances like collagen and other materials, so they're very active and important cells and not at all weeds. But they do grow well. It's important to know that a normal cell will divide every 24 to 32 hours under optimum conditions and... and this, of course, accounts for the necessity to subcultivate them every three to four days.

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: embryonic cells, cell cultures, lung tissue, fibroblast, subcultivation

Duration: 1 minute, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012