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Also, this fascinates me http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HeLa

These are cells from a person, Henrietta Lacks, which can be grown in a dish and which keep dividing, for ever.

Fun fact: there are tons of cell lines that are "immortalized", usually using various oncogenes. You can read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_immortality

HeLa cells are certainly the most famous. It should be noted that the HeLa stocks used in most labs now are radically different from original HeLa stocks.

Even in routine experiments, you have to keep a bunch of cells frozen in liquid nitrogen to replenish your "working stock" of cells. After around 30-40 passages (e.g. generations of cells), most immortalized cell lines start to get funky with mutations and exhibit different behaviors. You kill them off and go back to your frozen stocks to get back to the "original" genetics.

For the interested, I can highly recommend "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" - http://www.amazon.com/The-Immortal-Life-Henrietta-Lacks/dp/1...

From Wikipedia article: "The cells were later commercialized, although never patented in their original form."

Patenting a human cell? That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard.

Nobody patented "a human cell". What can get patented is the method for creating this cell line. Here's the classic (and controversial, but for different reasons) patent related to the Mo cell line (T-lymphoblasts):


These cell lines do not exist in nature and what is patented was the creation of a new immortalized cell line.

I can understand patenting the creation method of the line, but please tell me the line itself won't somehow inherit protection from that patent.

But I have a sinking feeling that it could.

They are patenting certain parts of DNA as we speak. It's nothing new, but it sickens me as well.

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