I was reading on the HeLa strain of cancer cells, which have been classified by science as a new species named Helacyton gartleri. All HeLa cultures are descended from a sample of cervical cancer taken from Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman who died of the disease in 1951. The cancer is called immortal because properly feed, the cultures can seemingly live forever.
The cells were initially feed an unorthodox concoction of blood from a human placenta, ground up beef embryos and fresh plasma obtained from the heart of a still living chicken. I swear I’m not making this up. There’s an article in Wikipedia about the cells, but it fails to mention their bizarre diet.
The Wikipedia article does mention HeLa cells were used to test early polio vaccines, but doesn’t mention that they are being used to manufacture an HIV vaccine. In fact, whole industry has grown up around HeLa cells, all without an compensation to Henrietta’s family or at first without their knowledge. In fact, the family only found out 25 years after the fact when it was discovered that HeLA cells were contaminating other cultures; scientists hoped to get gene samples from her family members to make it easier to remove HeLa contamination from non-HeLa cultures.
It’s sort of a real life horror story, isn’t it. Immortal cells that first kill their “mother” and contaminate other cell, possibly consuming them.