Waikel, Rebekah L. Department of Biological Sciences, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky.
Last reviewed:February 2020
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- Establishment of the first human transformed cell line
- Genomic and viral milieu of HeLa cells
- HeLa cells accelerated the discovery and use of the Salk polio vaccine
- Bioethics of HeLa cells
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A type of human cancer cell maintained in tissue culture since 1951, originally excised from the cervical carcinoma of a patient named Henrietta Lacks. The first immortal human cells to grow successfully outside the human body were labeled HeLa cells (Fig. 1), named for Henrietta Lacks, the 30-year-old cancer patient from whom the cells were derived. HeLa cells are so successful at growing that they have far outlived their person of origin and have contributed to biomedical research since 1951. It is estimated that, collectively, scientists have grown more than 20 tons of these cells. As one example of their importance, Jonas Salk used HeLa cells to produce large quantities of the polio virus, which was a vital step in the development of the first polio vaccine. See also: Biotechnology; Cancer; Cell (biology); Cell biology; Cell culture; Disease; Oncology; Poliomyelitis; Public health; Somatic cell genetics; Tissue culture; Vaccination
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