HeLa cells, an immortalized cell line
Frequently, scientists try to understand how the cells in our body behave by culturing them in a dish. But normal cells eventually stop dividing and die, so studying cells that can grow “forever” has become an invaluable tool in scientific research. These are HeLa cells, the first immortalized cell line ever established by scientists. HeLa cells are cervical cancer cells that were surgically removed in the 1940s from an African-American woman, Henrietta Lacks (whose story was recently documented by Rebecca Skloot in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks). Since the establishment of HeLa, thousands of immortalized cell types have been developed, but HeLa cells remain the most commonly used one.
Image by Asae Igarashi, Kyowa Hakko Kirin Co. Ltd., Japan.