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A conspiracy of cells: one woman's immortal legacy and the by Michael Gold

By Michael Gold

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Extra resources for A conspiracy of cells: one woman's immortal legacy and the medical scandal it caused

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Sci­ entists interested in the general workings of human cells clocked the rate at which HeLa cells multiplied and stud­ ied their production of proteins. Virologists, who found that polio viruses multiplied a millionfold just two to three days after infecting a HeLa culture, made HeLa their maj or new tool for studying the viruses. A year later they knew enough about polio to produce the first suc­ cessful vaccine. And, of course, every scientist who wanted to learn the methods of tissue culture insisted on starting with HeLa.

Here the office buildings were gray with dirty windows . Huge anchors and propellers were strewn around aluminum warehouses.

Nobody could explain why normal cells that turned malignant in the lab should be more aggres­ sive than cells that had become malignant while in the body, but for the moment scientists were delighted to have all these tenacious new cultures. Much later it became clear that these transforma­ tions were not spontaneous at all, but had been triggered by outside agents . In the case of the nonhuman cells, chemicals in the nutrient medium, oxygen in the air over the cultures, even fluorescent lighting in the laboratory were eventually found to inflict genetic harm that can turn normal cells cancerous.

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