Henrietta Lacks and Origin of HeLa Cells

By Acharya Tankeshwar •  Updated: 05/03/21 •  2 min read

HeLa cells are one of the best known continuous tissue-culture cell lines. HeLa cells are widely used in research because they are versatile, readily available, and easy to propagate serially. HeLa cells are also known as “cells that would not die”.

Do you know how HeLa cells originated?
HeLa cells are cancerous cells derived from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. She was diagnosed with cancer when she was 31 years old and visited Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for medical treatment.

Henrietta Lacks Photo Johns Hopkins University
Henrietta Lacks Photo Johns Hopkins University

Examining physician found a malignant tumor within her cervix. Biopsy sample of cancerous tissue were cultivated in the laboratory.

She was put in extensive radiation treatment but radiation failed to control the growth of the tumor. Within eight months of her visit, cancer had spread throughout her body and she died of cancer in 1952.

The tumor cells cultivated in a laboratory showed extensive growth. They doubled their number every 24 hours. These types of immortal and extensive growing cells were observed by scientists first time. Earlier cancer cells used to grow poorly in a lab and died off soon.

Though Henrietta Lacks died at a young age, she gave us invaluable gift-HeLa cells which we are using and will be using in virological research for many years to come.

Acharya Tankeshwar

Hello, thank you for visiting my blog. I am Tankeshwar Acharya. Blogging is my passion. As an asst. professor, I am teaching microbiology and immunology to medical and nursing students at PAHS, Nepal. I have been working as a microbiologist at Patan hospital for more than 10 years.

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