In 1951, 31 year old Henrietta lacks came to the hospital with a lump in her abdomen. Gynecologists at the Johns Hopkins Hospital diagnosed Marita with cervical cancer, which is highly malignant. Eight months later, young herita died as cancer cells invaded his body.
surgeons sent the biopsy samples taken by herita during the operation to Dr. George gey’s laboratory. For years, in search of the cause and treatment of cancer, Dr. guy and his wife, Margaret, have been collecting tissue samples from cancer patients and trying to grow cells in test tubes and Petri dishes. But such attempts always fail, and cells that leave the body’s tissue soon die.
the gay and his wife soon found out that the cells of herita were different from any cells they had ever seen: they not only survived, but were growing at an alarming rate, doubling every 20-24 hours, and soon from hundreds to millions! In the usual way, the scientists named the cells HeLa, using the first two letters of her name: Hela.
HeLa cells can “grow endlessly” in a nutrient solution made by researchers. This makes them ideal candidates for experiments, allowing scientists to perform repeatable experiments on human cells, especially those that cannot be done on living humans. Soon after, Dr. guy packed the HeLa cells in small tubes and mailed them free to many researchers around the world studying cancer and other biomedical problems.
Haila cells are not only the first human cell line to achieve immortality in vitro, but also become one of the most widely used human cell lines in scientific research in the next 70 years, meeting the huge demand of biomedical research. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 110000 research papers on HeLa cells were published between 1953 and 2019.
because these human cells could be cultured on a large scale, scientists who were struggling to conquer polio (i.e. polio) at that time quickly used them to develop effective vaccines. In addition, in the study of AIDS, herpes, measles, mumps, equine encephalitis and other diseases of the virus, HeLa cells have been “close contact” with the virus. In 2020, this cell will become an important research tool for searching for new coronal vaccine all over the world.
in addition to promoting virological research, researchers also use HeLa cells to explore the growth, differentiation and death of cells, and to study the effects of various drugs, hormones and bacteria on cells, so as to provide insights for understanding diseases such as cancer. Based on HeLa cells, scientists have also pioneered new medical technologies, such as in vitro fertilization. The first humans to go into space also brought herita rax’s cells into space to see what happens to cells in weightlessness: compared with normal cells, HeLa cells grow more vigorously in space.
when herita lax died, no one knew how her cancer developed or why her cells did not die. It was not until more than 30 years later that the German virologist Harald zur hausen discovered human papillomavirus (HPV). In HeLa cells, Professor hausen found a strain of HPV and found that the virus inserted its own DNA into human DNA. In HeLa cells, the insertion of the virus DNA just makes the tumor suppressor gene useless, so cancer cells grow wildly in her body. These findings promoted the development of HPV vaccine, and Professor hausen won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 2008.
the cells left by herita lax have made many scientific breakthroughs and saved countless lives. However, she herself was unaware of these contributions, and her daughter did not know that part of her mother was still alive until more than 20 years after her death. In the 1950s, when herita underwent surgery in the hospital, there were no regulations on doctors obtaining tissue samples for research purposes. In recent decades, with the development of scientific research, the concept and law of informed consent and patient privacy are also developing.
herita lax was born in 1920. August 1 this year marks the 100th anniversary of her birth. Today, HeLa cells are found all over the world, and the total weight of the cells that have been reproduced is estimated to be equivalent to 100 Empire State buildings. Her legacy has made a great contribution to the progress of science and the improvement of human health, which is worthy of our thanks.