Science in Christian Perspective



Secret In A Cell

From: JASA 28 (September 1976): 142.

During the 1960's research was for me a way of life, a life that  involved fighting my way out of a test tube. I worked as a tissue  culturist at the Papanicolaou Research Center in Miami, Florida. My job included placing tiny bits of mouse tumor tissue inside especially prepared culture tubes. Then with proper media and incubation, cells would grow. Nevertheless, some would also die. I had to discover why they were dying.

The chief investigator suggested the obvious. "There's that something wrong with your technique." So I ran a simple test. To  a drop of blood I added a drop of the media in which the cells had been growing to see if the solution was isotonic. It was. It had the exact amount of surface tension needed to keep the cells viable.

Then I tried changing the ingredients of the media. Using various kinds and ratios of sera, I found that the results were the same. I searched through volumes of literature on cell cultures, cell physiology, techniques and technology and found nothing that helped. Other researchers had the same experience. One Doctor told me, "Yes, we have that problem; so we just use the ones that are good and discard the others." Although he seemed to ignore
the problem, I could not. I was having a terminal case of  interference. Somewhere there had to be an answer to why these, cancer cells apparently were self-destructing.

Finally I reasoned: if by doing the opposite, the effect was the  same, then technique could be ruled out. So, without sacrificing  sterility, I broke all other rules of good tissue culturing. Glass surfaces on which cells are grown must be virgin clean. I smudged the glass. Tissue size should be one millimeter. I cut the fragments too large and too small. Media should be one milliliter. I tried both double the amount and half the amount. With all this, results were  unchanged.

Conclusion: with either proper or improper treatment some  cultures grew and lived and others grew and died. Therefore, if cell growth were not entirely dependent on external environment, there had to be an internal cause. If certain cells were programmed in an exceptional way, then naturally, they would develop differently.

Like a recorded message, the words kept repeating in my mind, by their fruits ye shall know them. Using Scripture in a laboratory  is an unpopular way to explain the known, unknown or any of the 
myriad phenomena that men struggle with. Even if I could  diagnose the difference, I still would need to demonstrate the  significance of all my scientific descriptions. So I stayed at the  microscope.

In trying to understand the nature of a malignancy, I likened it to the nature of evil which comes in never ending forms of deceit.  As I noted an artifact on a prepared slide, I realized. the deception. These cells were different. They were as trees whose fruit  withereth, without fruit. I wondered: there must be some factor within the nature of a tumor that was able to destroy itself. Since  this destructive power easily killed the host, why not itself.? And if so then perhaps that substance when applied to other tumor tissue would destroy tumor growth.

How simple. It seemed as though I knew the answer before the experiment was finished. From explants of squamous cell carcinoma of mice, I chose cultures with established growth, removed the original media and replaced it with media from
cultures in which the cells had died.

With the excitement of an expectant parent, I drove to the lab the next morning. There it was! After only twenty-four hours, signs of necrosis were beginning to show.  A few days later cell death was complete.

  Then came the final test. To be of value, the media that destroys cancer cells must not destroy normal cells. Therefore, I repeated the experiment using mouse embryo heart tissue. Again the results were successful. Normal cells remained unharmed.

Yes, there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets.
Ruth E. Farr
1800 W. Bethune No. 208
Detroit, Michigan 48206