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Cells Alive

May 11, 2006

You probably have heard that hair is made up of dead cells. But are living cells really "alive"?


The secret life of cells. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener Alice Dou-Wang from Wheaton, Illinois, wrote to ask whether the cells in our bodies are considered living in their own right. We turned to Agnes Day, a microbiologist at Howard University College of Medicine. She says that, while your skin or blood cells won’t get up and walk away, they are very much alive. They can even live very happily outside of your body—with a little help.

AGNES DAY (Howard University College):
As long as I gave them the proper nutrients, control the temperature, protected them from getting contaminated with bacteria or viruses, they can grow forever.

In fact, Day grows human cells for research, and must take special care that they don’t die. If you have a science question, call us at 1-800-why-isit. If we use it on the air, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.