Originally Posted by pibbur who
On the 4th of October 1951, Henrietta Lacks (31) died from cervical cancer. A couple of months before her death, a sample of cells were taken from the tumor. These cells turned out to be "remarkably durable and prolific", giving rise to a line of cells that would divide and divide and … (in 2018) still divide. Normal human cells, and even cancer cells will (regrettaby) stop dividing after a few generations.
The cells are called HeLa cells, after mrs. Lacks. The cell line is used extensively in biomedical research, testing of among other things drugs and environmental factors, and as a growth medium for viruses (viruses can't proliferate outside cells, and for viruses infecting humans, human cell cultures are especially useful). The Salk vaccine against poliomyelitis was developed using HeLa cells (poliovirus could until HeLa only be grown in human and simian nervous cell cultures). According to Wikipedia almost 11000 patents are connected to HeLa cells.
Since 1951 20 tons of cells have been produced, the number of HeLa cells thus far exceeds the number of cells in Henrietta. Due to ongoing mutations there are now several genetically different lines of HeLa cells.
The use of her cells raises several ethical and privacy questions, most important is the fact that the cells were taken from her without her knowledge and consent. Today the Lacks family is involved in deciding the use of the cell line.
pibbur who posts on behalf of a line of around 40 trillion pibbur cells