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article imageWoman's cells survive for 60 years after her death, cure diseases

By Chris V. Thangham     Oct 31, 2007 in Health
A woman’s body cells were taken for analysis, the cells remain alive even after 60 years from the body, and they multiply and divide just like regular cells. Usually normal cells separated from the body die after a certain time but this one is not.
When human body cells are removed from the body and put into a cell culture, they quickly weaken and die usually within 50 divisions. Without the rest of the body structure, such as the heart, digestive system, blood circulation, the cells cannot survive. Even if they are put in a Petri dish and try to simulate the body conditions, the cells will die. The body cells are dependent from the body they originate from. But in Henrietta Lacks’ case, the body cells removed more than 60 years ago, just keeps on going and multiplying.
In 1951 Henrietta Lacks visited the hospital to check after spotting blood on her clothes. Samples were taken from her cervical tissue and sent to the lab for analysis. The results came and showed she had cervical cancer. This cancer was caused by the human
There is, however, one human being who is biologically immortal on a technicality, and her name is Henrietta Lacks. In 1951 she showed up at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, complaining of blood spotting in her underwear. Samples were taken of her cervical tissue and sent to a lab for analysis, which came back with a diagnosis of cervical cancer. The cancer was caused by the Human papillomavirus, which is a sexually transmitted disease.
Most of the variants of this virus are harmless, but some are known to cause the cervical cancer. She underwent treatments for it, before that they took some more samples from the tumor and sent to George Gey, head of tissue culture research at Hopkins, for further analysis.
Gey found a unique thing with these cells, these cancer stricken cells not only survived in the lab for a long period but also were able to multiply outside Lacks’ body. And another strange thing was the cells didn’t age, it was like them being immortal. And they are still alive even today and remain the same young as ever. They call these cells as HeLa cells named after Henrietta Lacks.
Poor Henrietta however succumbed to the cancer on October 4th, 1951.
The HeLa cells are widely used in biological research just like the lab rats and replicate with the same characteristics as the original cells. They are used in cancer research because one cannot use them on living human patients, so it is very invaluable to test the various methods on the HeLa Cells. They were also used in the development of the Polio vaccine, making Henrietta somewhat of a posthumous hero to millions.
The fascinating thing they will keep on multiplying even after thousands of years, even some of the original cells that was taken away from Henrietta will live for a long time. The scientists haven’t found another cells like this, since this is a highly unique cells they consider as a new species and have given a genus name as Helacyton gartleri named by Van Valen & Maiorana.
The interaction of the papillomavirus and Henrietta’s body cells made this possible. She is considered a hero for this sample of cells, without which the scientists would have used more lab rats and more humans as test subjects.
More about Cells, Survive, Death
 
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