The HeLa Cell Strain: Cervical Carcinoma (Assn of American Medical Colleges, 1956)

The HeLa Cell Strain: Cervical Carcinoma (Assn of American Medical Colleges, 1956)

October 4, 2019 2 By Stanley Isaacs


[Narrator:] The designation HeLa refers to
the name of a patient who was operated for the treatment of a cervical carcinoma. [Narrator:] Dr. and Mrs. George Guy of the
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore established this cell strain
which has been in continuous culture since nineteen-hundred
and fifty-one. HeLa cells are grown in test tubes where they may be harvested from the walls by means of
a rubber policeman. The colonies are collected in petri dishes containing nutrient fluid. They are transferred later to the surface of a large sterile glass slide and cut into
fragments suitable for subculture in bottles, test tubes, or on cover slips. Cells are stimulated by cutting, but this must be done with sharp knives to avoid excess trauma. The cut fragments are collected in a petri
dish containing a nutrient solution. The essential steps in preparing a culture
are now shown. Cover glasses are placed on a slide, and plasma is dropped on their surface. The tissues are now picked up on the tip of
a knife blade and are transferred to the plasma. They are placed at equidistant points on the
cover glass. An equal amount of embryonic extract is added, and the mixture is stirred. When the clot is set, each slide is placed
in a test tube, fluid nutrient is added, and the culture is incubated at body temperature. Here we see the development of a freshly transferred culture, photographed at one frame per minute. Notice the frame counter in the right-hand portion of the field. The middle number represents the flight of
time in minutes. Since this portion of the film was photographed at one frame per minute, and is being projected at 24 frames per second, what we see on the screen is accelerated by a factor of more than 1,000 times. The colony spreads with characteristic shifting
motions of the cells. At higher magnification we see the advance of the margin of the outgrowing cells. Three arrows point to rotating nuclei, a curious phenomenon encountered in tissue
cultures studied with time-lapse photography. At higher magnification, we see a nuclear rotation in an individual
cell. This portion of the record is accelerated
160 times. Then the speed is increased to more than 1,000
times in order to dramatize the effect. Mitoses of normal and abnormal types are common. Three arrows locate elements which will show normal bipolar divisions, and a single arrow points to a cell which will produce a tripolar mitosis. Here is a quadripolar mitosis. Frequently, abnormalities of the spindle can
be seen. Chromosomal movements show a wide variety
of derangements. The number of chromosomes is generally between
80 and 90, but sometimes more than 200 chromosomes can
be demonstrated in dividing cells of the HeLa strain. Two nuclei are seen in this giant cell, and here is a giant cell with multiple nuclei which appears to be in the process of degeneration. This portion of the film shows numerous threadlike cytoplasmic processes. Such filopodia are typical of the HeLa cell. We see them in a sequence where the level
of focus was changed to show their arrangement in patches. In the right-hand portion of this field, the pattern is found even over the area of
the nucleus. In situ, filopodia probably are associated in an interplay between neighboring cells. Here we can see the movements of intercellular
strands between two cells in vitro. In addition to the surface activity of the
threadlike processes, the cytoplasm often shows characteristic ruffles, which lead to the engulfment of nutrient fluid
invacuoles. This process is very commonly found in HeLa
cultures. We see it taking place in the left-hand portion of the field. We can also observe twitching movements of the cytoplasm, which remain unexplained. This sequence and many others were collected in the course of investigations on the behavior of the HeLa cell as a part of a cancer research program. Cell drinking, or pinocytosis, as described by Dr. Warren Lewis many years ago, accounts for the intake of large quantities of nutrients. Cells of this type may ingest more than one
third of their volume in one hour. The mechanism of pinocytosis and its consequences remains one of the most challenging problems of cell physiology. These records show nutrient intake at the
margin, and the migration of fluid vacuoles toward
the nucleus. These fields were photographed with an oil immersion objective. Active folds on the surface of cells lead some observers to believe that this may
result in the formation of mitochondria. However, at a slightly deeper level of focus, we see that filamentous mitochondria are quite different from the folds at the
surface. The view of an entire cell photographed with phase-contrast optics shows cell organs such as mitochondria, vacuoles, and lipoprotein granules grouped in characteristic
patterns. The juxtanuclear zone or Golgi apparatus, as it is described from fixed preparations, is probably represented here in the aggregation of various cell organoids. The HeLa cell has become a very useful material
for experimental work not only in the study of cancer but in the
field of general cytology. It is easily cultivated, it exhibits many
abnormalities, and is valuable for the cultivation of a wide
variety of viruses.