Steve Chambers steve at chambers.ak.planet.co.nz
Wed May 3 20:25:52 EST 1995

In <obogler-0205951146400001 at licr-user003.ucsd.edu> obogler at ucsd.edu (Oliver Bogler) writes:
>In article <3no34u$hk9 at mserv1.dl.ac.uk>, <W.G.VAN.DOORN at ATO.AGRO.NL> wrote:

>> *Would it not be better to use neutral terms for the stages in cell cultures 
>> *like a) dividing, b) quiescent, c) nondividing, and d) perpetually dividing, 
>> *or any other set of terms that just describes the facts.
>Yes indeed it would be better, and in fact it is so. Here they are:

[snip - no argument]

>senescent: the cell is in a normally irreversible form of G0 where it will
>not divide no matter what stimulants are applied. It is however viable,
>and can remain so for some time.

[snip - no argument]

>mortal: the cell can divide for a limit period of time (with periods of
>quiescence possible) at the end of which it spontaneously enters
>senescence and/or apoptosis.

>immortal: the cell never undergoes senescence or apoptosis spontaneously
>(note: it could be quiescent)

>These are the definitions of the common terms used by people working in
>the field. It has to be understood that some of the same words are used by
>laypeople to mean different things. This is common in English, I'm afraid.
>I hope I have helped in clarifying this difficult area.

Do you really think that it's appropriate for a small group of biologists
to usurp the common meaning of a term?  Science is about creating clarity,
not confusion.  I, for one, refuse to perpetuate these lingual inaccuracies.

If a publication (or post) is meant for general consumption, the onus is
on the writer to communicate in a clear and unambiguous manner.  The care
with which, for example, Alberts et al have written Molecular Biology of 
The Cell (P750-751) illustrates the point:

  When they talk about cell senescence they call it CELL senescence.

  When they talk of continued proliferation potential they enclose 
  "immortal" in quotation marks to indicate its unusual usage.

Many cell biologists could learn a lesson from this.  Let's put this 
issue to bed and do our best from now on to maintain the integrity of the 


(I_lurk,_therefore_I_am!_\ ,,,                    Steve Chambers
                          (o o)   steve at chambers.ak.planet.co.nz
(c) Steve Chambers                     1995. All rights reserved 

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