While working in her lab, pathologist Lynn Allen-Hoffman discovered a petri dish filled with colonies of skin cellsthat, for some unknown reason, will not die. She was running a routine experiment on the aging of human skin, when shefirst noticed the group of seemingly immortal cells, in the midst of a colony of dead cells.

Most skin cells die within a few weeks, but these cells have been alive for 4 years now, and still show no sign ofdemise.

Allen-Hoffman was doing the same type of experiment she had been doing for years, so she has no idea how these cells may be different from the other cells she’s worked with in the past. She experiments on cells from circumcised tissuesamples taken from infants. Since her discovery, she has repeated the experiment countless times, trying to recreate the “immortal” cells, but new ones have never appeared.

It’s actually important that skin cells die fairly quickly. Old skin cells slough off at a regular rate, revealing thegood looking new cells beneath them. During our lifetimes, we each shed about 90 pounds of dead skin, which is the mainingredient in the dust we are constantly vacuuming up.

But this discovery could be extremely valuable in the creation of artificial skin for burn victims and victims of NF,the bacterial “flesh-eating” disease we talked about on the December 17 Dreamland show. These cells could also be usedto test anti-cancer agents and cosmetics, alleviating the need for testing on animals.

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