The Cultured Lymphocyte in Clinical and Experimental Medicine

  • P.S Papageorgiou
  • P.R Glade


Our understanding of the nature of the lymphocyte and its role in health and disease has undergone dramatic changes in the last decade. Known for almost one hundred years, peripheral lymphocytes had traditionally been considered short-lived with limited biologic activity and of little significance to the economy of the host. Recent studies, however, have clearly demonstrated that the circulating lymphocyte pool is composed of a spectrum of cells of varying origins, lifespans, fine structural features and capacities to mediate immunologic responses (1). A fortuitous observation by Nowell in 1960 (2) was a major impetus for this continuing series of investigations in lymphocyte biology. He noted that phytohemagglutinin (PHA), a crude extract of the common red kidney bean, had the remarkable ability to cause normal small lymphocytes from peripheral blood to undergo a series of morphologic changes to "blast like» cells in tissue culture. A variety of immunologic and non-immunologic stimuli were subsequently shown to initiate similar morphologic alterations in small lymphocytes associated with new RNA, protein, and DNA synthesis, followed by mitosis and cell division (3). This process, termed lymphocyte transformation, confirmed that the lymphocyte is a resting cell capable of further differentiation and proliferation and provided an exceedingly versatile and accessible in vitro model for the orderly analysis of human immunologic reaction, genetic variation, and cellular differentiation. The profound impact of this discovery on medical genetics, immunology, cell biology and biochemistry is immeasurable, recognized by clinicians and researchers alike. Work with lymphocytes in short term culture and in the more recently developed established suspension cultures has produced a wealth of information to be assimilated and put to use. The versatility of these systems for the detection, definition, and solution of problems in clinical and experimental medicine has been gratifying and the limits of their potential usefulness are yet to be defined. Our Progress in Lymphology will highlight some of the advances made possible by the study of cultured lymphocytes and will consider new directions for future research and clinical application.

How to Cite:

Papageorgiou, P. & Glade, P., (1972) “The Cultured Lymphocyte in Clinical and Experimental Medicine”, Lymphology 5(2), 80-89.

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Published on
29 Sep 1972
Peer Reviewed