Medical Definition of HeLa cell

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

HeLa cell: One of the cells grown from the cervical cancer of a young African-American woman, Henrietta Lacks. HeLa cells were the first human cells to be continuously grown in culture.

The cells were first cultured in February 1951 by Drs. George and Margaret Gey at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. The cells appear "immortal" and are still used in medical research today.

Who owns those cells? For many years, Lacks's children have sought recognition of their mother's contribution to science.

The designation "HeLa" was taken from the name of Henrietta Lacks.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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