Relationship between donor age and the replicative lifespan of human cells in culture: a reevaluation

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Sep 1;95(18):10614-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.95.18.10614.


Normal human diploid fibroblasts have a finite replicative lifespan in vitro, which has been postulated to be a cellular manifestation of aging in vivo. Several studies have shown an inverse relationship between donor age and fibroblast culture replicative lifespan; however, in all cases, the correlation was weak, and, with few exceptions, the health status of the donors was unknown. We have determined the replicative lifespans of 124 skin fibroblast cell lines established from donors of different ages as part of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. All of the donors were medically examined and were declared "healthy," according to Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging protocols, at the time the biopsies were taken. Both long- and short-lived cell lines were observed in all age groups, but no significant correlation between the proliferative potential of the cell lines and donor age was found. A comparison of multiple cell lines established from the same donors at different ages also failed to reveal any significant trends between proliferative potential and donor age. The rate of [3H]thymidine incorporation and the initial rates of growth during the first few subcultivations were examined in a subset of cell lines and were found to be significantly greater in fetal lines than in postnatal lines. Cell lines established from adults did not vary significantly either in initial growth rate or in [3H]thymidine incorporation. These results clearly indicate that, if health status and biopsy conditions are controlled, the replicative lifespan of fibroblasts in culture does not correlate with donor age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cell Division / physiology*
  • Cell Line
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged