HeLa cell, immortal human epithelial cancer cell line, SEM

  • Anne Weston, Francis Crick Institute
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HeLa cell, immortal human epithelial cancer cell line, SEM. Anne Weston, Francis Crick Institute. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0). Source: Wellcome Collection.

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False-coloured scanning electron micrograph of a HeLa cell which is displaying some blebbing. These blebs or ruffles visible on the surface of the cell are local bulges which form in the plasma membrane when it temporarily detaches from the underlying cytoskeleton. Cell blebbing is important for a variety of cellular processes including cell movement and cell division. HeLa cells are an immortal human epithelial cell line derived from a cancerous tumour of the cervix (adenocarcinoma). It was established in 1951 from a biopsy taken from Henrietta Lacks and was the first human cell line to survive and grow in the laboratory. Henrietta's cells were originally used in this way without permission from her or her family which raises issues about ethics and privacy. HeLa cells have been used extensively around the world in many different fields of research including cancer research, immunology and vaccine development. Width of image is 32 micrometres.

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