Sunday, June 27, 2010

Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights and HeLa Cells: The Closest Things to Immortality

A HeLa cell (also Hela or hela cell) is a cell type in an immortal cell line used in scientific research. It is one of the oldest and most commonly used human cell lines. The line was derived from cervical cancer cells taken from Henrietta Lacks, a patient who eventually died of her cancer on October 4, 1951. The cell line was found to be remarkably durable and prolific as illustrated by its contamination of many other cell lines used in research.

HeLa cells are termed "immortal" in that they can divide an unlimited number of times in a laboratory cell culture plate as long as fundamental cell survival conditions are met (i.e. being maintained and sustained in a suitable environment). There are many strains of HeLa cells as they continue to evolve by being grown in cell cultures, but all HeLa cells are descended from the same tumor cells removed from Mrs. Lacks. It has been estimated that the total number of HeLa cells that have been propagated in cell culture far exceeds the total number of cells that were in Henrietta Lacks' body.

HeLa cells and Freedman v. D.C. Department of Human Rights are the closest things to immortality on God's green earth!  Henrietta Lacks died in 1951 but her cells will live on forever, or so it seems.  

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

I wonder if Henrietta Lacks was Catholic. Did she attend "Our Blessed Lady of Perpetual Jurisdiction?" -- One wonders! One wonders, indeed!!