Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on March 21, 1976 · Page 47
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 47

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Sunday, March 21, 1976
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f j . , . In This Section Adroit ifvcc Vxat section Sel pJJ Features-Editorials x TH) Travel Pages 12-20 .mm. cLz 6 SUNDAY, MARCH 21, 1976 k . J : I 4 A Itilf 77D DIAGNOSING THE BRITISH DISEASE ay Not Muddle Throu rum a mess b gh In this year of America's 200th birthday, it is ironic that Great Britain is threatened with demise as a Western democracy. Outstripped in technology, strapped by inflation and the high cost of a welfare state, the erosion of the middle class and the growing militance of labor unions, Britzin is becoming a bankrupt economy. The surprise resignation this past week of Prime Minister Harold Wilson adds to the confusion. Hugh Mulligan, an Associated Press special correspondent, describes the "British disease" in this year of its great discontent. plain about lazy workers when any foreign businessman seeking to buy British goods will tell you that if you try to contact many managers outside the hours of 10 a.m. to noon, they are unobtainable. Apparently outside these hours they preside over Britain's decline and fall like Roman generals of old, in their pubs, clubs and sauna baths." ""- "iLT - financial writers at home and abroad, television chat show personalities and consultants in every local pub. There is a growing body of thought that Britain actually is mourning the centennial of her decline, that her economy began to recede as the Industrial Revolution, which she brought about, was taken over by developing countries and colonies with greater natural resources. Britain today imports half her food and most key raw materials except coal, although her balance of trade should improve greatly when North Sea oil starts to flow. As for the "brain drain," Britain has been exiling her best and brightest since the balmiest days of Empire to run the gold mines, tea and tobacco plantations and far flung territorial governments. Even now city bankers are more inclined to export their capital than invest in home industries crying out for expansion and modernization. The City of London is the hub of the gold trade, the commodity market, world banking and marine insurance, which accounts for the far-away look in her eye. A number of economists blame the prevalence of the British disease and its undying notions of class struggle between management and labor on the failed plans of recent governments that encouraged the view all problems could be solved by an incomes policy or a treasury handout. "British economic policy still tends to lurch from one half-baked expedient to another," diagnosed Oxford economist Peter Oppnheimer. "It lacks the judiciousness and assurance that come from a clear appreciation of what government can achieve and what must be left to the economy at large to do." Shop stewards are not the only echelon under suspicion of being work shy and encouraging lay-abouts. . British managers, Labor PM Brian S.jdgemore told a symposium at the London School of Economics, "com AP Photo Into the auction tent is pouring the contents of Stonor Park, Britain's oldest family home. "Nearly every other home currently sold in London goes to an overseas buyer, and two in every three come from the Middle East." in the towel against the tax man. He headed off to California "or maybe the Caribbean," joining Sean Connery, Tom Tones, Engelbert Humperdinck, Ringn Starr, the Rolling Stones, golfer Tony Jacklin and a host of other glamorous tax exiles. The same day Bugner was bugging out, 2,500 British doctors sat for an exam in London qualifying them to practice in America, and Italy's private hospitals began recruiting in Britain for 2,000 specialists. The British Medical Association issued another "brain drain" warning. . Lady Camoys wept as auctioneers began selling off the furnishings of Stonor Park, Britain's oldest family home, owned for 800 years by a prominent Catholic family that hid hunted priests during the purges of the Reformation. Another 930 stately homes were threatened with demolition, according to a report by "Save Britain's Heritage," and in the past six months they disappeared at the rate of one a day. There were a pair of reports showing how Britain's inflation, still the highest in the Common Market, and the acquisitive tax collector had eroded the take-home pay of wage earners at opposite ends of the social spectrum. A confidential Labor Party analysis showed that as a man's earnings rose from $r0 a week to $120, the state took back 83 percent in taxes and withdrawn benefits, so the $120-a-week worker's take-home pay was only $12 ahead of someone making less than half as much. ' IRONICALLY, this calendar of cal- LONDON Almost in the same week in this bitter time of economic discontent, the British way of life was buffeted by a series of headline-making storms blowing in from every direction. Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced he was resigning. Six thousand men walked off the job at Chrysler's Linwood, Scotland, plant over a minor pay hassle, involving 57 men, that threatened the $324 million government rescue plan for the strike-plagued American subsidiary. At British Leyland's Cowley plant, which in the past 18 months lost nearly three million man hours and production of 87,0(10 vehicles to wildcat strikes, 500 night shift workers went home after 10 men complained it was too cold. An earlier Leyland stoppage came about when a dozen workers complained the shop floor smelled of cat urine. Rolls-Royce announced it was closing two airplane engine plants and eliminating 6,000 jobs. Thorn Electrical shut down its color TV tube fac; tory because of three little words: "Hitachi, Sony, Toshiba," the names of its Japanese competitors. Unemployment reached a postwar high of nearly 1.5 million, some 6 percent of the labor force. There were the usual Tory cries in Parliament for the Labor government to resign. Joe Bugner, the British heavyweight who went the distance with Muhammad Ali in a career that brought him a million dollars, threw 'Half the Output Per Worker If the virus strain is difficult to isolate, the debilitating effects of the British disease are manifest on the production line. A tough cabinet "Think Tank" report on the declining British car industry, which has slipped into fifth place behind the United States, France, Italy and Japan in production, had hard things to say about the assembly line worker: "With the same power at his elbow and doing the same job as his continental counterpart, a British car assembly worker produces only half as much output per shift." Ford U.K., for instance, with plant and tooling directly comparable to Ford Germany, achieved about only half the output per worker. The British Mini takes 232 man-hours to assemble, against Hit) for the Belgian Mini. Cars rolled off British assembly liens with "more faults than on those assembled elsewhere." The message was not new. Henry Ford II created a furor a few years back when he pronounced Ford's German sedan more reliable than the identical British model, which car vvorktrs have labeled the "Dagenham Dustbin." A Financial Times survey comparing production and sales performance of Britain's nationalized industries with European competitors Please turn to Page 4D, Col. 1 amity unfolded just as the economic gloom seemed to be lifting a bit. Recovery might be on the way, if not yet in sight, even though the pound sterling dipped below $2 this month for the first time in history. Prime Minister Harold Wilson assured a banquet of London bankers that the war on inflation was being won, thanks to trade union acceptance of his $12 a week pay raise limit. From a ruinous 28 percent in 1975, the rate of inflation had braked to near 15 percent, though still twice that of trade rivall. Moderate candidates won out over Marxist extremists and Trotskyite militants for control of several power-f u 1 unions, including construction trades, electrical workers and Ley-land's hapless Cowley plant, a prog- n o s i s that the chronic "British disease" of open class warfare on the shop floor might not be fatal after all. Top. businessmen were being brought in to run state-owned industries that previously were in the hands of civil servants and subject to frequent tampering by politicians, which resulted in too many obsolete plants employing too many people at too many sites. Importing Food, Exporting Hrains Diagnosing tbe British disease has become a major sport, open to all comers, amateur and professional, especially popular with Oxford dons, back benchers of every political hue, i f The HeLa Strain Why a Line of Cells From a Woman Long Bead Is Sending Tremors Through The World of Bio-Medical Research . ... ... -: t 4 tltt BY MICHAEL ROGERS From Rolling Stont ON A MILD, rainy Thursday, early in February 1951, an energetic young black woman, just 31, appeared for examination at the outpatient gynecologic clinic of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital. That same day, 21 German war criminals, sentenced to die on the gallows, were spared in the most sweeping American clemency move since the cessation of hostilities. At just about the same time the Germans receivpd their clemency, the young woman received her death sentence, phrased in the precise language of the pathology lab: a tiny purplish lesion on her cervix, less than an inch in diameter, was cancer. Uer malignancy diagnosed, the patient would spend the remaining eight months of her life shuttlins in and out of Johns Hopkins for treatment, to die there, finally, during 1 . ' .. f ' X 4 I V i ll l.itl i Hi Mlli W I I I I I I I lll.l1rr...i.j.M..-i..i . the long humid days of late summer, leaving behind a soft-spoken husband, five children, a handful of photographs and a tiny piece of her own flesh that by now, a quarter-century later, thrives and conquers in laboratories around the world. THE FIRST TIME I heard about Helen Lane was the spring of 1974 in the men's room of a San Francisco medical school library, where an odd, felt-pen scrawl over the urinal read "Helen Lane Lives!" The observation was meaningless to me then, and I likely would have forgotten it altogether except less than two months later I ran across Helen Lane again. This time it was in the prestigious pages of Science Magazine. Helen Lane was the topic of a brief, highly technical paper that immediately sent tremors throngh the whole structure of international medical research. According to the paper, the oldest and most dependable line of human cells, dubbed HeLa, had suddenly been found to be not only old and dependable, hut positively aggressive. These tiny human cells had been inadvertently spread from their own glass containers to other cell tissues, infiltrating and subverting whole sets of other cell lines altogether unbeknownst to the countless medical researchers who based their work on them. HeLa, according to Science, is cell culture shorthand for Helen Lane, and Helen Lane is a big name in that arcane pursuit. Human tissue culture is essentially the art of convincing a glass-bound set of cells that it is in fact still safely ensconced within some warm body and thereby prompting its continued reproduction. That's not an easy trick, but over the past 20 years, tissue culture has become a critical tool in medical research, allowing the scientist to observe 'all sorts of cellular processes from virus infections to nutrition without actually having to fool around with a whole live human being. And it started, rt ally, with Helen Lane a Baltimore woman now long dead, whose cancerous cervical cells performed so spectacularly in laboratory glassware that they became, almost overnight, one of the hottest items in experimental biomedicine. Now, for a quarter of a century later, HeLa also looks like a major problem. For, it develops, even a single HeLa cell transferred on a glass pipette by a careless technician can overgrow an entire precisely labeled colony of different cells and settle in, right ai home. At that point, of course, that precise label becomes meaningless and thus, by now, some number of researchers who had thought all along that they were experimenting with kidney cells from Los Angeles or breast tumors from Vladivostok were in fact all working with identical versions of those vigorous cervical cells from Baltimore. In the delicate realms of biomedical research that's not exactly a minor error. It is closer, all in all, to disaster. Just how disastrous, the Science paper wouldn't even hint. How, I wondered, does this tissue culture business work? How did this HeLa cell become a monster amidst the Pyrex? What are the implications for research and most of all, who was this Helen Lane? THAT WET BALTIMORE day when the young black woman first appeared at the Johns Hopkins clinic, a physician-researcher named George Gey and his wife, Margaret, in a small laboratory in the same building, were rapidly approaching the culmination of a quarter-century's work in the techniques of growing human cells in glass. Gey who died in 1970 will likely be recognized someday as a significant figure in the medical history of the Photo by MICHAEL ALEXANDER human cells known as HeLa which has created both a medical mystery and a good deal of consternation. culturing for all those years when no one was paying atten- ' tion? "Well," says Margaret Gey, "that's what everybody asked us. Why do you do it? It won't get anyplace. But I believed in George and George kept saying that there's a field in this he could feel it coming." DR. GEY WAS RIGHT. Ask, for example, Walter Nel-son-Recs, the ebullient California cell geneticist whose terse Science paper, co-authored with colleagues Robert Flander-meyer and Paula Hawthorne, produced the first hard data that triggered the HeLa controversy. Nelson-Rees's sole business is, in fact, the maintenance and distribution of life in glass. The business is, however, still sufficiently new that some mysteries remain. "I don't think," says Nelson-Rees, "that anyone really knows why one cell grows and another doesn't." HeLa while it is still human, reflecting the genetic makeup of its donor is also cancerous, as are many other popular cell lines in the tissue culture business. Might this explain HeLa's laboratory longevity? Nelson-Rees considers the possibility for a moment. It's really not that easy," he shrugs finally, "even to grow tumoi cells." Nelson-Rees, almost certainly, should know: in a small laboratory tucked away on Navy property just south of Rerkelcy, he runs a thorough reference library of human and other vertebrae lines for the National Cancer Institute. WALTER NELSON-REES'S laboratory is the address where some 5,000 of these cell lines reside: either deep frozen or still growing in three-man-high, stainless-steel incubators, maintained just at body temperature and filled with chrome racks of culture bottles. Each culture bottle is about the shape of an old-fashinoned cough syrup container, half-filled with a clear red solution, derived from calf fetuses, the color of weak cherry Kool-Aid. In some bottles, a faint whitish haze of human cells clings to the plastic sides; in others, the material has begun to peel, like dead skin, in wispy pale patches. Each bottle, Please to Page 4D, Col. S In the Sterile Room of Walter Nelson Rees' laboratory near Berkeley, Calif., there is more living stuff than meets the eye, including a virile line of early 20th Century. "Biology and medicine," said one journal, a few months after his death, "are greatly indebted to George Gey, whose ykilt with the tissue culture technique made so much possible." In 1933 after eight years of shoestring research Gey had invented the "Roller tube" a device for cell culture which, by means of slow rotation, offers the developing cells more nutrition than was possible in the traditional hollow-gound depression of a glass miccoscope slide. While human cells had been cultured before Gey's roller tube, it was a major step forward in simplifying what had previously been a spectacularly delicate, erratic operation. Almost 20 years after the first roller tube, the young Baltimore black woman walked into Johns Hopkins and eight days after that, the resident gynecologist passed onto the Geys a tiny bit of her ultimately fatal lesion rescued, as it were, just before the first round of her radium treatments. Gey grew that tissue in his roller tube and after several weeks of mounting excitement, he realized that this time he had cultured something very special. Historical even. "HeLa," noted one journal, "with a generation time of about 24 hours, if 'allowed to grow uninhibited under optimum culture conditions, would have taken over the world by this time." Thanhs to HeLa, A Polio Vaccine HeLa's contribution to modern medicine began immediately. The day before the young woman first visited the Baltimore clinic, 10,000 mothers matched against polio in New York City; three years later, the HeLa strain would take those mothers off the street permanently. Polio is caused by a virus and viruses require cells in which to grow. These indefatigable, undeflatable HeLa cells proved to be ideal hosts for polio virus a pivotal develop-ment in the creation of a successful vaccine. And that was only the beginning. Within a few years, Heka was in laboratories around the world. Why, one wonders, did the Geys keep at their tissue Dclroil Officials Decide To Pay (Lale) for Shirts t THE POLICE ATHLETIC League (PAL), a program for kids in Detroit, shelled out $2ri() last year for basketball jerseys for an adult basketball league that includes City of Detroit officials. Deputy Mayor William Beckham, who heads one city team, says he asked civilian deputy police chief Tom Moss to arrange to get the jerseys on a PAL discount with the intent of paying back the organization. When the basketball players procastinated on the payment, Moss and Earl Lloyd, then hear of PAL, decided to write off the bill as advertising, according to the deputy mayor and PAL staffers. Beckham says the money will now be paid. Ford (Whew!) 3Iakes Deadline PRESIDENT FORD NARROWLY avoided a major home-state embarrassment last week. His name was almost left off the Michigan presidential primary ballot. Republican sources have confirmed that the national President Ford Committee was unaware until Monday that Michigan law required a signed certificate of candidacy to be filed by 4 p.m. Friday with Secretary of State Richard Austin. Scrambling produced the president's signature Tuesday and the document was put aboard an airliner for Detroit. The president's Michigan staff was there to pick it up, but no certificate could be found. A substitute was dispatched late Wednesday, arrived safely, and was sent to Lansing by courier. Gov. Millikcn filed it Thursday, one day ahead of deadline.

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