Walter Nelson-Rees

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Walter Nelson-Rees in 2005

Walter Nelson-Rees (11 January 1929 – 23 January 2009) was a cell culture worker and cytogeneticist who helped expose the problem of cross-contamination of cell lines. He used chromosome banding to show that many immortal cell lines, previously thought to be unique, were actually HeLa cell lines. The HeLa cells had contaminated and overgrown the other cell lines.[1][2]


He was born on January 11, 1929. Nelson-Rees retired in 1980. In 2005 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award, from the Society for In Vitro Biology (SIVB).[3]

He died on January 23, 2009 in San Francisco, California from complications from a broken hip.[2]


  1. ^ Schmeck Jr, Harold M. (June 15, 1986). "HeLa's legacy". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-17. Mr. Nelson-Rees became the scientific world's persistent watchdog in finding the cases in which other cell cultures were overgrown and replaced by HeLa cells. ...
  2. ^ a b Michael Taylor (28 January 2009). "Walter Nelson-Rees, UC Berkeley geneticist dies". SFGate. Retrieved 2012-01-17. Walter A. Nelson-Rees, a retired UC Berkeley geneticist who discovered and sounded the alarm on massive contamination of cells used in some research laboratories around the world, died Friday in San Francisco of complications from a broken hip he suffered in a fall three months ago. He was 80.
  3. ^ "Walter Nelson-Rees wins Lifetime Achievement Award". Society for In Vitro Biology. Retrieved 2012-01-17. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to three scientists at the 2004 SIVB World Congress in San Francisco, California. The Awardees were Dr. Thomas Grace,Prof. Sangyin Gao, Dr. Walter Nelson-Rees, and Dr. Trevor Thorpe. ... Unfortunately Walter Nelson-Rees retired at the height of his renown in 1980 after publishing nearly 70 full-length, peer-reviewed article.