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Alexis Carrel's quest for media attention


A bizarre way of protecting cell cultures from contamination
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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His work in cell culture began in about 1910 or 11 and it was about that time that he initiated this culture from a chick heart... embryonic chick heart cells and he was... he believed, strangely enough... and because this was a very serious problem in cell culture until the antibiotic era, the problem being the frequent contamination of cell culture with bacteria from the atmosphere. As you worked on the cultures, you had to open and close vessels, bottles, and frequently bacteria would fall in, contaminate the culture and your experiment was finished, so major efforts were made, prior to the antibiotic era, to prevent this from happening. All kinds of procedures were conducted. Carrel felt that everything had to be painted black in order to reduce the likelihood of contamination. Not only the rooms themselves, floors, ceilings and walls, but also the workers themselves, who were gowned from head to foot in black attire looking like Ku Klux Klan figures roaming about this large laboratory facility.

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: Alexis Carrel

Duration: 1 minute, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012