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   xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Feb 2 01:07 AM

Feb 2, 2010: Henrietta Lacks

Here's my contribution to Black History Month.
The picture, taken in 1945, is Henrietta Lacks and her husband David.
You, I, we, owe Henrietta... bigtime!



Quote:
Medical researchers use laboratory-grown human cells to learn the intricacies of how cells work and test theories about the causes and treatment of diseases. The cell lines they need are “immortal”—they can grow indefinitely, be frozen for decades, divided into different batches and shared among scientists. In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, created the first immortal human cell line with a tissue sample taken from a young black woman with cervical cancer. Those cells, called HeLa cells, quickly became invaluable to medical research.

A doctor at Johns Hopkins took a piece of her tumor without telling her and sent it down the hall to scientists there who had been trying to grow tissues in culture for decades without success. No one knows why, but her cells never died.
So why do you and I owe a debt to Henrietta?

Quote:
Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine. They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.
I find it disturbing that "immortal" cells came from a tumor.
But anyway, things got complicated later on.... link

Via


ZenGum  Tuesday Feb 2 03:14 AM

Relating to this bit :

Quote:
Twenty-five years after Henrietta died, a scientist discovered that many cell cultures thought to be from other tissue types, including breast and prostate cells, were in fact HeLa cells. It turned out that HeLa cells could float on dust particles in the air and travel on unwashed hands and contaminate other cultures. It became an enormous controversy.
from Bruce's link, I've read elsewhere that not only can the cells drift around a laboratory surprisingly easily, if one does settle into any other culture, the HeLa will take over as fast as it can grow and divide, and then spread on, so for a while there was a big problem with laboratories not being sure if any of their cultures were what they thought they were. Some speculate that this invasiveness (as well as its immortality) is related to it being a cancer.


Kolbenfresser  Tuesday Feb 2 04:15 AM

Nice academic postdoc work

So a postdoc called Henrietta’s husband one day, to ask for additional tissue samples. The way the husband understood the phone call was: “We’ve got your wife. She’s alive in a laboratory. We’ve been doing research on her for the last 25 years. And now we have to test your kids to see if they have cancer.”

Anyway, some postdocs can easily scare the hell out of any given human being...



Pie  Tuesday Feb 2 09:06 AM

I'm pretty sure that's not what the postdoc said.



squirell nutkin  Tuesday Feb 2 10:06 AM

Yes. earlier in that paragraph they pointed out that her husband only had a 3rd grade education. However they didn't say whether or not he had a 3rd grade intellect.

The article is worth reading.



toranokaze  Tuesday Feb 2 10:20 AM

Cancer is a disorder of endlessly replicating cells ie immoral cells. So it only makes sense that the cells that are preserved by endless replication are cancerous.



Pie  Tuesday Feb 2 10:59 AM

There's a disease in dogs called canine transmissible venereal tumor that's essentially a cancer that's morphed into a std.

Quote:
Although the genome of CTVT is derived from a canid (probably a dog, wolf or coyote), it is now essentially living as a unicellular, asexually reproducing (but sexually transmitted) pathogen. Sequence analysis of the genome suggests it diverged from canids over 6,000 years ago; possibly much earlier.
Good thing HeLa hasn't turned into the same sort of thing!


TheMercenary  Tuesday Feb 2 11:03 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZenGum View Post
Relating to this bit :



from Bruce's link, I've read elsewhere that not only can the cells drift around a laboratory surprisingly easily, if one does settle into any other culture, the HeLa will take over as fast as it can grow and divide, and then spread on, so for a while there was a big problem with laboratories not being sure if any of their cultures were what they thought they were. Some speculate that this invasiveness (as well as its immortality) is related to it being a cancer.
Eventually they are going to take over the world.




newtimer  Tuesday Feb 2 11:44 AM

(Overheard in the petri dish)

"Gee, Hela. What are we going to do tonight? Narf!"
"The same thing we do every night. Try to take over the culture!"



busterb  Tuesday Feb 2 01:30 PM

Merc. That damn Kudzu?



Juniper  Tuesday Feb 2 01:31 PM

This was just on NPR - I heard it on the way home from school just now.



monster  Tuesday Feb 2 04:26 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by toranokaze View Post
Cancer is a disorder of endlessly replicating cells ie immoral cells.
just like humans then


richlevy  Tuesday Feb 2 08:31 PM

Well, no Nobel Prize for me then. I've spent my life looking for immoral cells.

Wait...there's one now....

Uh oh..looks like an epidemic





richlevy  Tuesday Feb 2 11:35 PM

Getting serious for a moment, one of mankind's greatest gifts is the ability to salvage some good from tragedy.



SPUCK  Wednesday Feb 3 04:19 AM

So what happens when one of these HeLa cells floats up some researcher's nose?



Adak  Wednesday Feb 3 08:11 AM

I asked some cancer researchers just that question. They said it would be alright for you to come and find out.

Sometimes they have such a practical way of thinking!

Your appointment is at 10 a.m. on Friday.

Seriously, this kind of stuff always scares the beejesus out of me. Just let something like that get out, and have it be

1) highly contagious, and

2) quickly fatal

and you're looking at a real threat to our species.



Tuba Loons  Wednesday Feb 3 10:23 AM

pics or gtfo




xoxoxoBruce  Thursday Feb 4 12:45 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by SPUCK View Post
So what happens when one of these HeLa cells floats up some researcher's nose?
Poop molecules.


gozar  Thursday Feb 4 01:02 AM

Here's another article with more info:
http://www.jhu.edu/~jhumag/0400web/01.html



xoxoxoBruce  Thursday Feb 4 10:56 AM

Excellent link, thanks gozar.



Pie  Thursday Feb 4 11:18 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adak View Post
Seriously, this kind of stuff always scares the beejesus out of me. Just let something like that get out, and have it be

1) highly contagious, and
2) quickly fatal

and you're looking at a real threat to our species.
Most human immune systems would be able to contain the HeLa cells. They are sufficiently different from our genetic makeup that they would be spotted as intruders and killed off.

Petri dishes and other growth media don't have immune systems.

ETA: they have been worked with since the 1950s when protocols were far laxer, and are considered Biosafety level 2 materials. If these were going to get out of control in the human population, it would have happened a long time ago.

Fight FUD!

ETA2: They have a different number of chromosomes that the standard human. Some researchers have postulated that it is in fact a new species: Helacyton gartleri. Amazing!


ETA3: from MeFi:
Quote:
Originally Posted by ubersturm
I did a bunch of research on this - a needlestick left me wondering what would have happened if I'd been working with live cells like HeLa. As far as I have been able to tell, there aren't any documented cases of HeLa cells causing a tumor in another living person. Most of the cases of human cancer transmission have either involved close relatives (meaning that the body is more likely to incorrectly read the foreign tumor cells as its own, and fail to mount an immune response against them) or people with suppressed immune systems (especially recipients of donated organs.) There are some cases of mother-to-fetus transmission recorded as well. Henri Vadon is one of the few cases I've been able to find where an unrelated person with a non-compromised immune system got cancer from someone else. Additionally, all these reports involve pretty direct exposure to the living tumor in the person with the original cancer (or samples of the cancer/infected organs); I haven't seen any reports of transmission via cancer strains cultured in lab.



SPUCK  Friday Feb 5 06:05 AM

Good info pie. Thanks.



ZenGum  Friday Feb 5 08:18 PM

Doesn't the Human Papiloma Virus cause cervical cancer?

Quote:
1) highly contagious, and

2) quickly fatal

and you're looking at a real threat to our species.
Certainly, a threat to our economy and civilisation, but as population thins out, it becomes harder and harder for the disease to spread, so probably there would be pockets of survivors here and there. Biological control almost never wipes out a species.


Adak  Saturday Feb 6 04:19 AM

HPV? Not usually. Most people's immune system prevents the virus from taking over cells in that way. The HPV lives on, but doesn't cause much problem.

Some strains of HPV are worse in that respect, than others though.

If you saw the YouTube vid's on "Tree Man", you see a guy who's skin cells were able to be taken over by a strain of HPV, and the result was horrific to say the least.

He just didn't have the normal gene immune response to control the HPV strain he came in contact with.

There are some other virus's which do cause cancer directly, but they're rare. They just found a new one that jumped species from dogs, according to the BBC this month.

The virus's and bacteria I worry about are the one's that we create as biological weapons. Where they splice something that spreads as fast as measles, onto a deadly killer disease.

Fast acting, no known cure. It would make HIV look like peanuts in comparison. Several countries have done significant research into this field.



ZenGum  Sunday Feb 7 07:25 AM

If you're into that sort of thing, look for the sciencegasm thread; I put some links there about new broad spectrum antivirals. Excellent stuff, but a lot of it was done by DARPA .



Pico and ME  Sunday Feb 7 12:22 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZenGum View Post
Doesn't the Human Papiloma Virus cause cervical cancer?



Certainly, a threat to our economy and civilisation, but as population thins out, it becomes harder and harder for the disease to spread, so probably there would be pockets of survivors here and there. Biological control almost never wipes out a species.
Thats reassuring...


xoxoxoBruce  Monday Feb 8 12:22 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZenGum View Post
If you're into that sort of thing, look for the sciencegasm thread; I put some links there about new broad spectrum antivirals. Excellent stuff, but a lot of it was done by DARPA .
DARPA funds a lot of research they think might be of benefit to the military, at some time. A great deal of the results find there way into the civilian marketplace.


ZenGum  Monday Feb 8 05:28 AM

True, I'm hoping this is a Defense Against Dark Arts idea.



xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Feb 9 12:11 AM

Well if you want to worry about something, worry about this.



ZenGum  Tuesday Feb 9 04:09 AM

What could possibly go wrong?



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