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The WISH cell line


HeLa cells
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
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I also should mention, since it's become more popular in recent months, as the result of a book, describe the 'HeLa' cell. This is a cell population derived from a black woman in Baltimore, Maryland. Her name was Henrietta Lacks and the name of the cell population derives from the first and second letter off her first and last name, HeLa. And there a book was recently written called The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks. It's been very popular in the United States. It's been on the New York Times bestseller list for many weeks now, probably soon in other countries. And the author, a woman who I know, I spent maybe 12 or 15 hours on the telephone with her discussing the early days of the HeLa cell and it's cultures since I knew the man who discovered them, namely a man by the name of George Gey. And so I was able to give her a lot of the historical background for her book. But this cell culture is important because it was the first immortal human cell culture. The first immortal cell culture actually came from a mouse and it was derived in the early 1940s. It's called 'L929'. So we did know about these immortal cell cultures. We knew a few of them existed, by the time I started my experiments. And we also knew of the importance of transformation, at least theoretically.

Leonard Hayflick (b. 1928), the recipient of several research prizes and awards, including the 1991 Sandoz Prize for Gerontological Research, is known for his research in cell biology, virus vaccine development, and mycoplasmology. He also has studied the ageing process for more than thirty years. Hayflick is known for discovering that human cells divide for a limited number of times in vitro (refuting the contention by Alexis Carrel that normal body cells are immortal), which is known as the Hayflick limit, as well as developing the first normal human diploid cell strains for studies on human ageing and for research use throughout the world. He also made the first oral polio vaccine produced in a continuously propogated cell strain - work which contributed to significant virus vaccine development.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: HeLa cells, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Henrieta Lacks, George Gey

Duration: 2 minutes, 2 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012