Debate and discussion of any biological questions not pertaining to a particular topic.
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Hi all, first time poster here, trying to find someone who has heard this same story and can remember the woman's name.
I was told this story by a phylogenetics lecturer and I love to use it in debates or to spark people's interest in science, but not being able to remember her name makes it difficult to check up on the details. Here's the story as I remember it:
There was a woman who found that she had cancer in the 50's. Samples were taken and it appeared that serious genetic alterations had taken place, as the cells continued to divide/reproduce asexually. My lecturer was using this as an example of one of the theories of aging, that each time stem cells divide, the strands of DNA get shorter, but not, for some unknown reason, in the cancer cells of this woman.
He also told me that her cells are a 'pest' that regularly turn up in labs that have previously worked on them. If that's true, any professional microbiologists here should be able to recall this story and tell me some more details.
I don't know about you, but I find this story seriously cool. A woman evolved (or rather, de-evolved) into a single celled organism which survives decades after the 'bulk' of her body has died from the cancer. It's an especially good story to mention if an IDist or creationist ever tries to deny that our species is in a constant state of flux, changing with each generation or even within a generation, as this story shows. Well, it would be a good story, if I could remember her name. So if anyone knows of this story, please post here! This is driving me crazy and it's a difficult sort of thing to search for on the web...I had to come to the experts.
Thanks for any help or comments.
I think there are nowadays several similar cases, but this story is most often associated with the so-called HeLa cells, which were named after a woman called Henrietta Lacks who had cervical cancer from which the cells were originally derived from. And yes, the cell lines have contaminated other cell lines around the world, so in a sense she now lives all over the world and has achieved a kind of immortality.
Thanks for that guys! I shall remember the name of Henrietta Lacks.
Perhaps my lecturer exagerated how prolific the cells are in labs. I thought that microbiologists might now them as a pest that crops up every now and then.
I had forgotten about the interesting legal issues surrounding the use of the cells commerically. Apparently, our DNA or body matter is non-copywriteable, .
Damn, just few seconds!
Anyway, I think, that the immortality come from that, that the HeLa cells are cultured all the time, not that it would contaminated other cell lines (otherwise the contaminated cell lines would not be used anymore, would they? )
Cis or trans? That's what matters.
Yeah, HeLa cells are indeed culutred all the time, though they'd probably last quite long around even if active culturing would be stopped: there must still be hundreds if not thousands of cryoprserved cell lines contaminated with those cells stored in many scientists' freezers :P
There are also probably several ongoing cell lines still around that are conatminated by HeLa - if the other cell line is very similar, it is not always easy to spot such "cryptic contaminations", as they are called, without extensive profiling of the cells.
Btw, there's a pretty funny chapter in Wikipedia's article about HeLa cells, where it says that someone has actually declared HeLa cells as a new unicellular species: Helacyton gartleri :D
6 posts • Page 1 of 1
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