HeLa cell

GC: n

S: Smithsonian – https://goo.gl/yOYs5T (last access: 28 October 2016); BSR – http://berkeleysciencereview.com/article/good-bad-hela/ (last access: 28 October 2016).

N: 1. – HeLa (acronym): Henrietta Lacks 1951 patient from whom the cells were taken.
– cell (n): Early 12c., “small monastery, subordinate monastery” (from Medieval Latin in this sense), later “small room for a monk or a nun in a monastic establishment; a hermit’s dwelling” (c. 1300), from Latin cella “small room, store room, hut,” related to Latin celare “to hide, conceal.”
Used in 14c., figuratively, of brain “compartments;” used in biology by 17c. of various cavities (wood structure, segments of fruit, bee combs), gradually focusing to the modern sense of “basic structure of living organisms” (which Oxford English Dictionary dates to 1845). Cell body is from 1851; cell division from 1846; cell membrane from 1837 (but cellular membrane is 1732); cell wall from 1842.
2. Henrietta’s battle with cancer began when, worried about a knot that she felt in her abdomen, she made the 20 mile trip to Johns Hopkins Hospital. At the time, Johns Hopkins was the only option in the area for African Americans seeking medical treatment. A biopsy of her cervix revealed that she had cervical carcinoma, a type of cancer that grows from the epithelial cells that line and protect the cervix. Extensive treatment ensued, which began by inserting tubes of radium into her cervix to reduce the tumor, followed by daily X-ray therapy. Despite the debilitating treatments, Henrietta’s commitment to her family never wavered, and she was able to keep her condition secret from most family members in order to spare them the worry. In turn, she endured much of it alone while Day was at work. Her cancer proved to be too resilient, however, and began to weaken both body and spirit. Tumors overcame nearly all the organs in her abdomen, and relief from the excruciating pain was the only service available at Johns Hopkins. Henrietta passed away on October 4th, 1951.
3. For most scientists, Henrietta Lacks represents the mother of all HeLa cells. As the first and, for many years, only cell line able to divide indefinitely out of the body, their popularity among research scientists flourished, and HeLa cells quickly became workhorses in the laboratory. Their first formidable task? To aid in the development of the polio vaccine in 1953. Jonas Salk, a virologist at the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, had created a vaccine from inactivated viruses. It seemed promising, but he needed cells, lots of them, to test his vaccine before human trials. HeLa cells were the perfect tool. Not only did they grow vigorously, making it easy to amass the enormous quantity of cells required for the study, but they also become easily infected by the poliomyelitis virus. Within less than a year, the vaccine was ready for human patients.
4. Cultural interrelation: We can mention the novel The inmortal life of Henrietta Lacks (2010) written by Rebecca L. Skloot.

S: 1. OED- http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=cell (last access: 28 October 2016); MW- http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hela%20cell(last access: 28 October 2016). 2 & 3. BSR – http://berkeleysciencereview.com/article/good-bad-hela/ (last access: 28 October 2016). 4. RS – http://rebeccaskloot.com/the-immortal-life/ (last access: 28 October 2016).

CR: biopsy, cancerology, cervical cancer, poliomyelitis, poliovirus.