The Age of a Cell
The Age of a Cell
Cell Aging in Cowdry’s Problems of Ageing and Beyond
This chapter examines Edmund Vincent Cowdry’s conception of cell aging reflected in his research and writing from around 1924, when General Cytology was published, to the early 1950s, when his work engaged extensively with gerontology. Starting from studies of deformed mitochondria, Cowdry provided exhaustive reviews of literature on the aging of individual cells and that of tissue fluids for his edited volumes Problems of Ageing. (Cowdry 1939, 1942) Particularly, he inferred that injuries from metabolic waste and toxins in body fluids caused cellular aging in multicellular organisms, and considered tissue culture of little use for aging research. In this regard, his interpretations were heavily influenced by Alexis Carrel’s view that cells are intrinsically immortal, a notion based a problematic “immortal chick heart culture.” Overall, Cowdry’s works emphasized the diversity of the phenomena of aging on the cellular level, where manifestations were highly dependent on the surrounding environments and particular life courses of these cells. Although biologists working in the following years largely turned away from Cowdry’s conception of cell aging and his holistic approach, new research on cell aging established later in the twentieth and twentieth-first century suggests a reemergence of some of the research directions Cowdry had envisioned.
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