Significant Research Advances Enabled by HeLa Cells

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In 1952, HeLa cells became the first human cell line that could grow and divide endlessly in a laboratory, leading scientists to label these cells “immortal”. The immortality of HeLa cells contributed to their adoption across the world as the human cell line of choice for biomedical research. Though additional cells lines have been developed over the years, HeLa cells continue to be widely used to advance biomedical research and medicine.

The enduring use of HeLa cells in biomedical research is represented below through a timeline of events and scientific publications that describe research using HeLa cells. The timeline aims to show the role that HeLa cells have played in some of the major advances in fields such as cancer biology, infectious disease, fundamental microbiology and many others. The hyperlinked text provided in each entry provides the underlying sources for the advances and allows the reader to take a deeper look into the actual science. The events that were selected were based on the number of times researchers cited, or gave credit, to the publication(s) in which the events were described. Research involving HeLa cells has been described in more than 110,00 scientific publications. This staggering number makes it clear just how important these cells have been to research over the past six decades.

The versatility and power of HeLa cells have made them an essential laboratory tool that still continue to provide new clues about the basis of human health and disease.