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yiolas 02-01-2010 11:20 PM

HeLa Cells
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'One of the most widely used continuous cell lines for virology is the HeLa cell line, which was derived in 1951 from Henrietta Lacks.

In early 1951, Ms. Lacks, a 31-year old mother of five children, was found to have a malignant tumor of the cervix. During her examination at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD, a sample of the tumor was removed and provided to Dr. George Gey. He was head of tissue culture research at Hopkins who for years had been attempting to produce a line of immortal human cells. When Ms. Lacks died in October 1951, Dr. Gey announced on national television that he had produced from Ms. Lacks’ tumor a line of cells that propagated as no other cells ever had before. He called them ‘HeLa’ cells in her honor, and showed a vial of the cells to the television audience.

HeLa cells have since been used in many laboratories all over the world to make countless research discoveries. For example, shortly after Dr. Gey announced the HeLa cell line, it was used to propagate polio virus, an event that played an important role in the development of polio virus vaccines. But Ms. Lacks’ family never learned about the important cells that were derived from her until 24 years after her death. The history of this event, described in the Johns Hopkins Magazine, is a commentary on the lack of informed consent common in medical research at the time.'

What is it about this story that has touched a nerve ending for me ?

What made her DNA so different ?
This story is heart wrenching and surprisingly brought me to tears.
I think that in some abstract way, it represents the gene manipulation that man endured millenia ago.
I don't know if I'm going bonkers or what, but as soon as I read the word 'HeLa' it reminded me of a song that aired in the 70's with the chorus saying 'HeLa' or Layla. Does anyone else remember this ?
This whole story has struck a chord with me and I don't know why.
I would appreciate it if you could read the link and share your thoughts.

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