Role of Hela Cells Discovery in Science

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The Discovery Of Hela Cells has drastically improved the science industry within only a few years after they were taken from Henrietta’s tumor and grown in culture. After Jonas Salk used HeLa to test the polio vaccine he created, the mass production of HeLa cells led to scientists growing several viruses, transporting and “pausing” cells, growing cells in standardized cultures around the world, cloning specific cells that had different characteristics, and seeing unwound chromosomes for the first time. When we hear “mass production” today, we typically think of a business selling clothes and products that are identical and made in a factory.

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In the Industrial Revolution, the process of mass production was invented to make more products in less time by using machines, which completely changed the world by both lowering prices of goods and producing goods at a much faster rate. Before the 1950’s, mass producing cells had been unneeded and unheard of until the NFIP, a science organization that was created by President FDR after the dangerous outbreak of polio, had “an average of $50 million in donations each year” and “wanted to give much of that money to cell culturists so they could find a way to mass-produce cells, which they’d been wanting to do so for years anyway” (Skloot 94). So, the NFIP asked Dr. Gey, the scientist who took Henrietta’s cells and cultured them to grow indefinitely into HeLa, and several other scientists who were experienced in the cell culture field to begin searching. Dr. Gey knew that all HeLa cells needed to reproduce was culture medium, which was essientally cell food. HeLa cells “could grow floating in a culture medium that was constantly stirred by a magnetic device, an important technique Gey developed, now called growing in suspension” (94).

So, the mass production of cells was created before Dr. Gey even tested HeLa’s reaction to poliovirus, which HeLa’s ability to be contaminated by viruses only increased the need for the mass production of cells. After discovering this, Dr. Gey tried shipping HeLa several different ways and the NFIP set up a factory at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to specifically mass produce HeLa. The discovery of mass production led to the selling of HeLa cells, which were soon bought by scientists all over the world interested in conducting millions of experiments. Mass production improved scientists’ techniques with standardization of growing HeLa cells for their experiments and learning more about viruses, cloning, and freezing cells - which led to more and more important discoveries that scientists are still investigating today.

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