A HeLa cell, also Hela or hela cell, is a cell type in an immortal cell line used in scientific research.
An immortalised cell line is a population of cells from a multicellular organism which would normally not proliferate indefinitely but, due to mutation, have evaded normal cellular senescence and instead can keep undergoing division.
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It is the oldest and most commonly used human cell line.
Humans are the only extant members of the subtribe Hominina, a branch of the tribe Hominini belonging to the family of great apes.
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The line was derived from cervical cancer cells taken on February 8, 1951 from Henrietta Lacks, a patient who died of her cancer on October 4, 1951.
Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman whose cancer cells are the source of the HeLa cell line, the first immortalized cell line and one of the most important cell lines in medical research.
The cell line was found to be remarkably durable and prolific which warrants its extensive use in scientific research.
The cells from Lacks's cancerous cervical tumor were taken without her knowledge or consent by researcher George Gey, who found that they could be kept alive.
George Otto Gey was the cell biologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital who is credited with propagating the HeLa cell line.
Before this, cells cultured from other human cells would only survive for a few days.
Scientists spent more time trying to keep the cells alive than performing actual research on them.
Cells from Lacks's tumor behaved differently.
George Gey was able to isolate one specific cell, multiply it, and develop what is called a 'cell line'.
As was custom for Gey's lab assistant, she labeled the culture 'HeLa', the first two letters of the patient's first and last name; this became the name of the cell line.
These were the first human cells grown in a lab that were naturally "immortal", meaning that they do not die after a set number of cell divisions.
These cells could be used for conducting a multitude of medical experiments- if the cells died, they could simply be thrown away and the experiment could be repeated on new cells without the potential loss of human life.
This represented an enormous boon to medical and biological research.
The stable growth of HeLa enabled a researcher at the University of Minnesota hospital to successfully grow polio virus, enabling the development of a vaccine, and by 1954, Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio using these cells.
Polio, also called poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus.
To test Salk's new vaccine, the cells were put into mass production in the first-ever cell production factory.
In 1955, HeLa cells were the first human cells successfully cloned and demand for the HeLa cells quickly grew in the nascent biomedical industry.
Since the cells' first mass replications, they have been used by scientists in various types of investigations including disease research, gene mapping, and effects of toxic substances and radiation on humans.
Gene mapping describes the methods used to identify the locus of a gene and the distances between genes.
Additionally, HeLa cells have been used to test human sensitivity to tape, glue, cosmetics, and many other products.
Scientists have grown an estimated 20 tons of her cells, and there are almost 11,000 patents involving HeLa cells.
Due to cellular evolution after Lacks's death, some experts believe that the HeLa cell line is not fully human, considering the cells to be technically a new species - even though the cells still carry a mix of Lacks's and HPV DNA to this day.