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The immortal HeLa genome

Looking for a good read? Then check out The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks! This book is an amazing biography and journey of the HeLa Gemone and a favorite book among many life scientists.

Musings of a mitochondriac

Henrietta Lacks could never have imagined that tiny, invisible parts of her would enthrall, empower, and perplex scientists for decades. In 1951, she developed a particularly aggressive cervical cancer, which unfortunately could not be treated – Henrietta died just a few months later. But her cells lived on, becoming arguably one of biology’s most valuable tools for decades to come.

Yet until now, our knowledge of the genetics of these so-called HeLa cells was rather hazy. I’m happy to be part of the team that has just published the first genome sequence of a HeLa cell line. (We were a little shocked by the amount of coverage our press release generated, even including a NatureNews feature!) Here I’d like to explain why we did this and what we learned – and perhaps also importantly, what we did not learn.

(Part 2 of this post will be an interview…

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