Anonymous asked in Science & MathematicsBiology · 10 years ago

Would Henrietta Lacks have lived forever?

2 Answers

  • 10 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    No, she was not immortal, only some of her cells are. Of the cells that were extracted from her cervix, only some appear to be immortal, survive to today, but these were the cancerous cells. What makes these cancer cell immortal is that in suitable conditions, the cells will keep on reproducing and surviving.

    Telomeres are genetic structures at the end of each chromosome that get shortened each time the cell reproduces. In most cells, when the telomeres are all used up, the chromosome can no longer reproduce, or does so while loosing information. Stem cells have an enzyme, called telomerase, that rebuilds the telomeres after cell reproduction; this way the stem cells that are generating new cells all the time, will not die off after only a few cell division.

    One of the activities of the telomeres is to restrict the growth of cancer. For cancer to grow beyond a minuscule size, it must activate the telomerase enzyme in its DNA before the telomeres have all gone; this is one of the essential mutation of a noticeable cancer.

    In the HeLa line, the telomeres do not appear to be shortening, so the telomerase enzyme must be active in the cells, or something else we really do not understand is going on instead.

    So, while some of her cells appear to be able to continue forever, the woman herself could not. The cancer that killed her is the part of her that is immortal.

  • NO !! .. only her cells were immortal and still are .. Technically those cells are hers so she is still alive .. which is weird and creepy ..

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