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Examining Alexis Carrel's immortal chick cell populations


How cell culture came to be seen as 'black magic'
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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I also failed to mention that in the construction of his laboratory, Rockefeller, he had a balcony built above the lab with, I believe, a glass... glass between the balcony and up to the ceiling. But this balcony allowed him to encourage writers and journalists to visit the lab, walk down this balcony and try to see these strange black figures roaming around the laboratory – that is, a black laboratory – doing cell culture.

The downside of that gave to the field of cell culture something that it's only recently, in my judgement, outlived and that is a feeling of 'black magic', that cell culture was a black art. That indeed existed for decades, well into the... certainly through the '60s and possibly even into the '70s. No one can measure this accurately but in my judgement, it lasted for a very long time and most of the people, certainly in the '60s, knew this very well.

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, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012