The characteristic limited reproductive life-span of normal human fibroblasts in culture is due to a steadily decreasing fraction of cells able to proliferate in the standard rich growth media. We have observed that restricting the growth factor supply to old cells for variable lengths of time in culture increases the fraction of cells that can enter S-phase; although these cells do not go on to divide. Thus, it seems that there is a transient phase between the proliferating state and the irreversibly post-mitotic, senescent state. Perhaps a ‘quiescent-G0’ state, which can be maintained in the presence of growth factors, is a stage on the pathway to mortalization and senescence.

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