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The power of numbers


Do cells in culture lack an essential constituent?
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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The next step, obviously, was to interpret our results in some context as is customary in scientific reporting and to publish our studies. After trying to understand this phenomenon further, one of the things that occurred to me was that it might be possible that cells and culture are unable to make some essential constituent in culture that they're only capable of making when they're in the animal or, in this case, the human body. And that that... and what is happening, theoretically, is that that unknown constituent molecule would be diluted out by the fiftieth population doubling. It would be made by the tissue that you initiated the culture with and over a period of 50 population doublings, it would be diluted to the point where it was inactive. So this was a tenable hypothesis.

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: cell culture, molecule, dilution, hypothesis

Duration: 1 minute, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012