The Hayflick Limit is a concept that helps to explain the mechanisms behind cellular aging. The concept states that a normal human cell can only replicate and divide forty to sixty times before it cannot divide anymore, and will break down by programmed cell death or apoptosis. The concept of the Hayflick Limit revised Alexis Carrel's earlier theory, which stated that cells can replicate themselves infinitely. Leonard Hayflick developed the concept while at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1965. In his 1974 book Intrinsic Mutagenesis, Frank Macfarlane Burnet named the concept after Hayflick. The concept of the Hayflick Limit helped scientists study the effects of cellular aging on human populations from embryonic development to death, including the discovery of the effects of shortening repetitive sequences of DNA, called telomeres, on the ends of chromosomes. Elizabeth Blackburn, Jack Szostak and Carol Greider received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for their work on genetic structures related to the Hayflick Limit.

Telomeres are sequences of DNA on the ends of chromosomes that protect chromosomes from sticking to each other or tangling, which could cause irregularities in normal DNA functions. As cells replicate, telomeres shorten at the end of chromosomes, which correlates to senescence or cellular aging. Integral to this process is telomerase, which is an enzyme that repairs telomeres and is present in various cells in the human body, especially during human growth and development. Telomeres and telomerase are required for normal human embryonic development because they protect DNA as it completes multiple rounds of replication.

This study aims to provide information to answer the following question: While some scientists claim they can indefinitely culture a stem cell line in vitro, what are the consequences of those culturing practices? An analysis of a cluster of articles from the Embryo Project Encyclopedia provides information to suggest possible solutions to some potential problems in cell culturing, recognition of benefits for existing or historical culturing practices, and identification of gaps in scientific knowledge that warrant further research.

In 2003, molecular biology and genetics researchers Coleen T. Murphy, Steven A. McCarroll, Cornelia I. Bargmann, Andrew Fraser, Ravi S. Kamath, Julie Ahringer, Hao Li, and Cynthia Kenyon conducted an experiment that investigated the cellular aging in, Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) nematodes. The researchers investigated the interactions between the transcription factor DAF-16 and the genes that regulate the production of an insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1-like) protein related to the development, reproduction, and aging in C. elegans. Transcription factors, like DAF-16, are proteins that regulate the transcription of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) into messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), which later determines which proteins the cell produces. The research team's experiment suggested that an increase in the activity of the DAF-16 protein decreases the transcription of the genes that regulate the production of IGF-1-like proteins, increasing lifespan in nematodes. The team published their results in the article 'Genes that act downstream of DAF-16 to influence the lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans' in Nature in June 2003. By comparing the regulation of gene expression in C. elegans with similar genes and pathways in humans, Murphy's research team sought to better understand cellular function and aging in humans.

Telomeres are structures at the ends of DNA strands that get longer in the DNA of sperm cells as males age. That phenomenon is different for most other types of cells, for which telomeres get shorter as organisms age. In 1992, scientists showed that telomere length (TL) in sperm increases with age in contrast to most cell of most other types. Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of DNA strands that preserve chromosomal integrity and contribute to DNA length and stability. In most cells, telomeres shorten with each cell division due to incomplete replication, though the enzyme telomerase functions in some cell lines that undergo repetitive divisions to replenish any lost length and to prevent degradation. Cells, and therefore organisms, with short telomeres are more susceptible to mutations and genetic diseases. While TL increases in a subset of sperm cells and longer telomeres may prevent early disintegration of DNA, it may also prevent natural mechanisms of apoptosis, or cell death, from occurring in abnormal sperm.

Leonard Hayflick studied the processes by which cells age during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the United States. In 1961 at the Wistar Institute in the US, Hayflick researched a phenomenon later called the Hayflick Limit, or the claim that normal human cells can only divide forty to sixty times before they cannot divide any further. Researchers later found that the cause of the Hayflick Limit is the shortening of telomeres, or portions of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that slowly degrade as cells replicate. Hayflick used his research on normal embryonic cells to develop a vaccine for polio, and from HayflickÕs published directions, scientists developed vaccines for rubella, rabies, adenovirus, measles, chickenpox and shingles.

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