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Are HeLa cells dangerous?

I had to use them in an experiment in one of my lab classes at my college. There were no safety precautions and we weren't even told what these HeLa cells were. The cells were suspended in a chilled liquid. I wasn't wearing gloves and I think I got some of the liquid on my fingers. I had no idea they were cancerous. I see a potential lawsuit against this school if they will cause harm to me since we were not told that they could be potentially harmful. I only got them on my fingers and I washed my hands several times during the lab. Am I safe? Only answer if you know please

2 Answers

  • Eric
    Lv 4
    7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    HeLa cells have been grown for years by numerous researchers and do not require any special safety precautions. Spilling some fluid on your skin will do nothing. Even if they somehow got into your blood stream you are not going to get cancer!!! Stop worrying.

  • George
    Lv 6
    7 years ago

    More likely than not, you are safe--especially since you washed your hands, thoroughly.

    To be on the safe side, I would make a visit to a physician (not a student health physician)--but a general practice physician, just to be safe. Document everything---the day, date, time, of occurrence, the lab instructor, the department, supervisor. If there are witnesses (e.g. fellow students) who are upset, talk to them privately. Prepare a written statement to take to a physician--even a neighborhood clinic physician, and have them attach your notes to your file/records.


    I base this answer from the following:


    quoted directly from:


    "...'They could grow on a doorknob'

    Since HeLa cells were so easy to process and grow, in a monolayer or in suspension, scientists joked that they might survive on a doorknob or in a sink drain. This turned out not to be so amusing. On a conference on cell culture, somebody announced that he had found that 18 of the then most commonly used cell cultures (mostly of Caucasian origin) seemed to be contaminated by cells derived from a ***** person, most probably HeLa cells. Indeed, it turned out that HeLa cells could survive without optimal culture conditions: on pipettes, lab coats, and unwashed hands. Once one HeLa cell ended up in a dish of another culture, it would soon take over. ..."


    From a Canadian manual---yet useful--directly from: (pdf file):


    "... 𝒂 π’”π’‘π’†π’„π’Šπ’‡π’Šπ’„ π’†π’™π’‚π’Žπ’‘π’π’† 𝒇𝒐𝒓 π’”π’π’Žπ’† π’„π’π’Žπ’Žπ™€π’π’π’š 𝒖𝙨𝒆𝒅 𝒄𝒆𝒍𝒍𝒔 :

    Although HEK293 and HeLa cells are classified as risk group 2 by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) because they contain adenovirus or papilloma virus genetic material, respectively, (and SV40T for HEK293T),because these cells do not contain the complete viral genome for the respective viruses the risk of generation of these viruses by these cells is extremely low.

    Proper aseptic microbiological techniques will be used so as not to contaminate these cells with virus that might recombine and mobilize these viral genes into infective particles.

    As required by the PHAC and CFIA on import permits, HEK293 and HeLa cells will be treated as risk group 2 agents. ..."


    So, if they got on your fingers only, and you thoroughly washed your hands, your should be fine.

    HOWEVER, I am surprised, and shocked---by the carelessly and negligence of the failure to inform--and fail to take proper safety precautions. If someone had an open wound, or got a cut, this could, potentially, enter the bloodstream and could very well be dangerous! Furthermore, this sets a bad example of failure to practice appropriate safety procedures (often handling such material--even "HeLa cells in solution"---are done in the "hood" with gloves, goggles, and full protective gear (fully covered shoes). Failure to following safety protocols puts everyone--including the lab instructor--at risk.

    Someone---even parents paying for college---needs to speak up---even report this to the county health department of the county of the college, and ask who to contact from there---e.g. OSHA, etc. This really needs to be investigated to prevent such future occurrences. Furthermore, what should be addressed is the potential or ALL students in the lab to have "been exposed to a potential "biohazard" and whether they need a medical follow-up at the college's expense!

    Source(s): Web. Date viewed/accessed: 20 March 2014.
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