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How Alexis Carrel obtained his anomalous results


Examining Alexis Carrel's immortal chick cell populations
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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Alexis Carrel was very well known for this... this alleged immortal jigsaw population and because of that, I was faced with an explanation of his work because it flew in the face of what I had found. In one of my early papers, I described an event that took place about a year or two after my first paper describing my... my discovery – to which I will return in a moment because I'm following a thread now that should be completed before I return a few years prior to this event in order to make sense out of these crosscurrents that are occurring at that time.

So to complete this story, several other very important things occurred that led me to believe that Alexis Carrel had made some kind of error. The major event was when I was teaching at the University of Puerto Rico in '63 or '64. After my paper was published – during which time I was still dealing with the Carrel story and trying to understand what happened – I gave a lecture at the University of Puerto Rico, a public lecture after teaching there for a couple of months. After the lecture a woman came up to me and introduced herself as a former technician in Alexis Carrel's laboratory at the time of the events that I had been... that I had mentioned in my lecture and I was stunned. I said, 'You were?' She later identified herself as the wife of the dean of the School of Dentistry at the University of Puerto Rico and I said, 'For goodness' sake, we have to have a chat', which we did have and she told me the following interesting story and that is that she arrived in Alexis Carrel's lab in the mid-20s and, as a young woman in the lab, being trained by senior technicians and ultimately getting the privilege of seeing the so-called immortal jigsaw population. She was, of course, very interested in that and all of the things or events surrounding it and began... actually rose in her responsibilities, somehow became associated with caring for this culture and announced one day to her superior that the culture itself had some peculiar properties.

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: 3 minutes, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012