Over fifty years ago, a 31-year-old woman underwent a biopsy for a suspicious cervical mass. Part of the sample went for pathological analysis, but another went to the research laboratory of George and Martha Gey. The patient died from her cancer just 8 months later, and on that day George Gey appeared on American TV announcing the dawn of a new era in medical research. For the first time, he explained, it was possible to grow human cells continuously in culture. And he called the biopsy-derived cell line 'HeLa', in memory of Henrietta Lacks, the unfortunate young mother whose tumour made it all possible.
Since then, researchers have been slowly stripping away the many secrets that endow cancer cells with the gift of immortality. In a review in Nature, Toren Finkel and colleagues not only offer a historical perspective, but also describe the more recent research linking cancer biology to normal ageing.
Toren Finkel (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA)
NHLBI Communications Office, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA
E-mail: nhlbi_news @nhlbi.nih.gov
(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza