I find immortal cell lines a fascinating topic and I mentioned the subject in a previous post on influenza vaccines. From time to time I had heard about HeLa cells. I knew that this was a cell line derived from tissue taken from a tumour in the 1950’s. I also knew that the name was an abbreviation of the name of the woman who was the donor of the cells. Now, while wandering through the internet, I discovered the blog ‘Culture Dish‘ of the science writer Rebecca Skloot. My attention was immediately attracted by an advertisement for her forthcoming book ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’. This is the story of the woman who ‘gave’ the world HeLa cells, and how this was not exactly voluntary. Now this is the most important cell line in medical research and has become notorious for contaminating other cell lines. I will say no more about this since of course I have not seen the book yet. If I read it, which I probably will, I may write about it in a future post. The abbreviation was not very successful in assuring the anonymity of Henrietta Lacks.
The immortal Henrietta Lacks