The Publication of the HeLa Cell Genome: Henrietta Lacks and Cervical Cancer

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Henrietta Lacks, better known as HeLa to scientists around the world, is an African-American woman who unknowingly changed the course of medicine and science. On February 5, 1951, Dr. Howard Jones of Johns Hopkins Hospital, diagnosed Henrietta with cervical cancer. A few days later on February 8, 1951, Henrietta underwent her first radiation treatment for the cervical cancer. The doctors, without Henrietta's permission, took two samples from her cervix: one from the tumor, and one from the healthy cervical tissue. These samples were given to Dr. George Otto Gey, the head of tissue culture research at Johns Hopkins, who cultured them into immortal line of HeLa cells. The HeLa cells have been instrumental in all sorts of research, such as …show more content…
Now if researchers wish to access the genomic data, they must submit a request to the NIH. Then, a six member committee, which consists of representatives from the medical, scientific, and bioethics communities, as well as two representatives from the Lacks family, would review the requests and decided whether or not to grant the researchers access to the recently sequenced HeLa cell genome. The HeLa cell genome was sequenced using Illumina HiSeq 2000 (Landry et al. 2013). First, single DNA molecules and primers are spread out on a flow cell, which are then amplified to produce DNA colonies. Then, reagents including fluorescent nucleotides are flowed onto the DNA colonies, which are allowed to replicate by 1 base. Next, a laser excites the fluorescently labeled nucleotides, while a camera photographs the DNA colonies, to see which colors of light are emitted. By looking at the colors that are emitted from each colony, we can figure out the bases that were added, thus determining the sequence of the short reads of DNA. For the HeLa cell genome, 1 billion reads that were 101 nucleotides long were produced, and they were mapped the the human reference genome (Landry et al. 2013). It is likely that Illumina HiSeq2000 was chosen as the method for sequencing, because it is the quickest and cheapest option. By using the economical Illumina HiSeq 2000, the scientists were quickly able to gain insight to various properties of the HeLa

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