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Biotech Medicine

Researchers Unveil Genome of 'Immortal' Cell Line Derived From Cancer Victim 81

Posted by samzenpus
from the giant-book-that's-hidden-inside-you dept.
vinces99 writes "Scientists have unveiled a comprehensive portrait of the genome of the world's first immortal cell line, known as HeLa, derived in 1951 from an aggressive cervical cancer that killed Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African-American woman. The cells, taken without her or her family's knowledge, were pivotal in developing the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization and cloning, and were the subject of a 2010 New York Times best-seller 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.' The Lacks family has never been compensated and, until this new University of Washington study, has never had a say in how the information is used. The study, published Aug. 8 in Nature, pieced together the complicated insertion of the human papillomavirus genome, which contains its own set of cancer genes, into Lacks' genome near an 'oncogene,' a naturally occurring gene that can cause cancer when altered. Scientists had never succeeded in reproducing cells in a culture until the HeLa cells, which reproduced an entire generation every 24 hours and never stopped. The cells allowed scientists to perform experiments without using a living human. The researchers discovered that the genome of the HeLa cell line, which has been replicated millions, if not billions of times, has remained relatively stable."
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Researchers Unveil Genome of 'Immortal' Cell Line Derived From Cancer Victim

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  • Wow (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:29PM (#44505433)

    what a dupe, just 8 articles later...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, I guess this story, like the cell line, is infinitely replicating.

      • Re:Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Guppy (12314) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:46PM (#44505491)

        Well, I guess this story, like the cell line, is infinitely replicating.

        So in other words, are you suggesting that Dupes are the cancer that is killing Slashdot? :P

      • by RDW (41497)

        "Because of their adaptation to posting on popular technology sites, HeLa cell stories are sometimes difficult to control. They have proven to be a persistent technology blog "weed" that contaminates other news items on the same website, interfering with stories about Linux and forcing readers to declare articles as dupes. The degree of HeLa story contamination among other news items is unknown because few editors test the identity or relevance of already-submitted articles. It has been demonstrated that a

    • what a dupe, just 8 articles later...

      You've missed the opportunity to make a highly contextual joke: "This is a relapse!"

    • HeLa cells reproduce like crazy and even have taken over other cell lines through contamination [wikipedia.org]. Perhaps this story was originally about linux or something, but HeLa got in there and now it's a HeLa story.

      Okay, that's my one cell biology joke for the day. I apologize.
  • by DavidClarkeHR (2769805) <(ac.tsilarenegrh) (ta) (ekralc.divad)> on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:34PM (#44505447)
    Doctor: Well, I have good news and bad news.

    Patient: Gimme the good news first, doc.

    Doctor: Well, your cells are immortal... but ...

    Patient: Seriously? REALLY?! Well, what's the bad news?

    Doctor: Unfortunately, you're going to die from cancer in the next 3 months.

    Patient: Well f&#$^@ kn3$9$#les.
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @10:39PM (#44505467)

    The original is still on the front page. Good thing we have "editors".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    All tumor cells are immortal. i.e. they lack the apoptosis (programed cell death) that normal cells have. Tumor cells usually multiply (mitosis) slower than their normal countpart, but they do not commit suicide (apoptosis) when they should as normal cells do.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by antifoidulus (807088)
      It's not just tumor cells, cells infected with a wide variety of viruses do the same thing. Probably the most infamous among them are the herpes family and HIV. The cell immortality combined with the ability for the virus to remain latent are actually what makes both of those impossible to cure with current tech. However researchers into both viruses are pushing forward with techniques that could potentially prevent the virus from becoming latent which will cause the cell to die when the virus activates,
  • Because, in our rapidly changing socialist world, the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the one. Personal privacy, freedom, private property...gone because the "collective" run by a central authoritarian control, will run everything.
    • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

      Because, in our rapidly changing socialist world, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

      ftfy, now live long and prosper.

    • Could I please come over to your world? I'm stuck in this rapidly changing capitalist world where the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.

  • Maybe folks missed the point on the original post? All of this research was from a cell culture acquired from an individual that never had a choice in the matter. All this research is going to earn mega bucks, but zero phucks and zero bucks granted by corporations to the family or individual that they have done this to, the donor. Ever wonder where the term 'crooks and liars' came from when referring to politicians? How about 'corporate bitches'? See?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tftp (111690)

      What would be a fair payment to the family for a sample of cells of a dead person? At that time nobody knew of any specific, unique properties of cells in that sample. Biopsies are always taken as part of the lab work. What happens to the cells later? Who cares? Is it even moral to try to stop a use of such cells if that use is so beneficial to the humankind?

      Those megabucks that hundreds of companies earned were payment for the work of those companies. The HeLa cells only made it possible; but you cannot

      • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @12:15AM (#44505877)

        What would be a fair payment to the family for a sample of cells of a dead person?

        In 1952 there were over 3000 deaths caused by polio. Thanks to the vaccine, the disease was eliminated in the US by 1979.

        I'd suggest we should, at a minimum, arrange for 100,000 people to swing by their house and say "thank you".

      • I dunno free healthcare for her and her decendants in perpetuity.

        • by tftp (111690)

          I specifically mentioned "fair." Why would it be fair for the humankind to pay a tax to a group of people who haven't done anything to earn those monies? Some were just standing around when the unique characteristics of their relative's cells was discovered; others weren't even born yet. Neither they, nor Ms. Lacks herself, worked toward that goal. A religionist would say that Ms. Lacks got her cells from God. I'd understand if she made her own body by her own design, but that's not the case.

          IMO, it woul

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      All this research is going to earn mega bucks, but zero phucks and zero bucks granted by corporations to the family or individual that they have done this to, the donor. ... How about 'corporate bitches'? See?

      Yeah, Henrietta Lacks worked hard and with a high determination, for 31 long years, to pick and nurture those cells which are now so successful, she was crealy a gen(iu/e)s creator... and now, how is she rewarded?

    • by kwbauer (1677400)

      Yes, she did have a choice. She actually asked them to remove the cells from her body and "dispose" of them anyway they saw fit.

    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      Why should the *family* of the person whose cells were used get anything?

      That sounds *awfully* like "copyrights last for 75 years after the death of the author" (whatever the actual # is) that people here complain about all the time.

      As long as the person was actually medically treated as well as possible at the time (there wasn't some Bond villain harvesting their cells but letting the person die), it seems like that person should get something for their contribution, but why continue it?

  • The researchers discovered that the genome of the HeLa cell line, which has been replicated millions, if not billions of times, has remained relatively stable."

    The key word here is "relatively"

    The fact is that mutations have arisen over the years and most scientists working with this cell line are using a variant of the original cells (and most likely a different variant than other scientists).

    This cell line is the "white lab rat" of the genetics world, but like the white lab rat, it's not necessarily representative of anything except itself.

  • Seems there is a great opportunity for PETA&Co. to market the first grilled burger that can be produced without any animal suffering whatsoever.

    • Think of those poor animals, born and raised for a single goal, thier entire family history shaped and guided for one purpose, millions of dollars poured into making them the best they can be - imagine those poor animals being suddenly stripped of that purpose... No thanks. I'll stick to my bacon cheeseburgers, thank you very much. I owe them that much.
  • by madprof (4723) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @02:03AM (#44506395)

    Scientists have confirmed the release of the first immortal story on Slashdot. "The HeLa genome is so amazing," said one editor. "We just can't get enough of it."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Lacks family has never been compensated

    How much compensation do you need to pay for taking a cell sample? Should I sue my old high school for when they took a cheek cell scraping from me in human biol class?

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Did they use that cell scraping to earn millions of dollars? If so you should get a share, but if no money is being made then there is no money for you to get a share of.

      Does that make sense to you?

      • by kwbauer (1677400)

        Why? Was that share a part of the original agreement? Was there any stipulation made that prevented money from being made?

  • by dargaud (518470) <[ten.duagradg] [ta] [2todhsals]> on Thursday August 08, 2013 @04:29AM (#44507015) Homepage
    I give blood and I know that it can be used for research. If you have a biosample taken and it's used in medical research, it's a good thing. Why should you be compensated ? You benefit indirectly when something useful is made out of it (or somebody else's). And in particular, why should the 2nd cousin's grandnephew be compensated when, as for copyrights, they haven't contributed a THING ? Not everything is about money.
    • by cdrudge (68377)

      I give blood and I know that it can be used for research.

      Your comparison fails right there. You know that yor blood can be used for research because it's in the forms you sign or in the literature you read stating such. If you don't consent to it being used for research, you don't have to give.

      HeLa and her family never gave permission for the cells to originally be harvested. While it may not have been customary or required at that time to ask for permission, subsequent changes to medical ethics and priv

      • by dargaud (518470)

        Compensation also doesn't have to be in the form of money. It can be in the form of thanks. Or recognition. Or conditions about how any subsequent discoveries are made available to others.

        I'm with you here. Note that for decades those cells were exchanged anonymously between labs. And it should have stayed that way to keep the greedy from coming out of the woodwork.

      • by kwbauer (1677400)

        Are you actually claiming that the biopsy and cancer treatment was done against her will? I have not read that anywhere else.

      • HeLa didn't give permission for the cells to be harvested because (FTFA) it was neither required nor even customary in 1952. Laws change. Humanity is not positioned to retroactively go back to the beginning of recorded history to attempt to "correct" everything that should be different had that law existed in the first place.

    • What about if a university patents their "discovery" and then in turn licenses it out to a pharmaceutical company to make a; vaccine, drug, diagnostic process or something of similar nature and consequently between the two of them they make millions upon millions of dollars?
      Unfortunately we live in a world were medicine and money are tied closely together ([sarcasm]to have it any other way would be EVIL GODLESS SOCIALIST COMMUNISM[/sarcasm]) so if some institution or two are going to make millions and mill
  • The Lacks family has never been compensated

    I'm pretty sure they were compensated by the fact that a god damn polio vaccine was developed much sooner then it would have been otherwise using those cells.

    This crazy monetization of every stupid little thing in our society has to stop. To even think that a person should have been financially compensated -- or to remark that a person wasn't -- for something like this is completely absurd and a damning indictment on our society.

    And if compensation was in any wa

  • The Lacks family has never been compensated

    I'm pretty sure they were compensated by the fact that a god damn polio vaccine was developed much sooner then it would have been otherwise using those cells.

    This crazy monetization of every stupid little thing in our society has to stop. To even think that a person should have been financially compensated -- or to remark that a person wasn't -- for something like this is completely absurd and a damning indictment on our society.

    And if compensation was in any w

  • Radiolab did a story on this a few years ago. It's absolutely worth 11 minutes of your life...
    http://www.radiolab.org/2010/may/17/henriettas-tumor/ [radiolab.org]

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