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Exp Gerontol. 1989;24(3):177-87.

Human T lymphocytes possess a limited in vitro life span.

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Department of Pathology, UCLA Medical School 90024.


The T lymphocyte offers certain theoretical advantages over other available cell types for the study of aging. Immunosenescence is a well-established part of, and may be directly relevant to, mammalian aging, and the T lymphocyte is well-characterized as to function, cell-surface antigen make-up, and other factors. However, prior efforts at studying in vitro aging of T cells have been hampered by poor reproducibility in doubling potential and the occurrence of a peculiar type of crisis. We have improved the culture conditions for long-term in vitro propagation of normal human T lymphocytes so that previously described variability between identically manipulated cultures and the crisis period have been eliminated. Analysis of the growth patterns of 109 individual cultures revealed a limited proliferative life span, with the number of cumulative population doublings corresponding to that reported for adult human fibroblasts. This accord between the in vitro life spans of two vastly different cell types lends further support to the concept of the Hayflick Limit as a general biological phenomenon.

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