In a nutshell:
• Scientists deliver the first high-resolution sequence of HeLa cells, a key research tool for human disease and general biology
• Sequence analysis reveals the full extent to which HeLa cells are different to the Human Genome Project reference
• Resource could enhance the quality of research using HeLa cells
HeLa cells are the world’s most commonly used human cell lines, and have served as a standard for understanding many fundamental biological processes. In a study published today in G3: Genes, Genomes and Genetics online, scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, announce they have successfully sequenced the genome of a HeLa cell line. It provides a high-resolution genomic reference that reveals the striking differences between the HeLa genome and that of normal human cells. The study could improve the way HeLa cells are used to model human biology.
The scientists’ analysis of the HeLa genome revealed widespread abnormalities in both the number and structure of chromosomes, as well as factors commonly associated with cancer cells like losing healthy copies of genes. In particular, the researchers found that countless regions of the chromosomes in each cell were arranged in the wrong order and had extra or fewer copies of genes. This is a telltale sign of chromosome shattering, a recently discovered phenomenon associated with 2-3% of all cancers.
Knowledge of the genetic landscape of these cells can inform the design of future studies using HeLa cells, and strengthen the biological conclusions that can be made from them.
“The results provide the first detailed sequence of a HeLa genome,” explain Jonathan Landry and Paul Pyl from EMBL, who carried out the research. “It demonstrates how genetically complex HeLa is compared to normal human tissue. Yet, possibly because of this complexity, no one had systematically sequenced the genome, until now.”
“Our study underscores the importance of accounting for the abnormal characteristics of HeLa cells in experimental design and analysis, and has the potential to refine the use of HeLa cells as a model of human biology,” adds Lars Steinmetz from EMBL, who led the project.
For decades HeLa cells have provided effective and easily usable biological models for researching human biology and disease. They are widely regarded as the ‘industry standard’ tool for studying human biology. Studies using them have led to two Nobel prizes and a host of advancements in many areas, including cancer, HIV/AIDS and the development of the polio vaccine. The HeLa genome had never been sequenced before, and modern molecular genetic studies using HeLa cells are typically designed and analysed using the Human Genome Project reference. This, however, misrepresents the sequence chaos that characterises HeLa cells, since they were derived from a cervical tumour and have since been adapting in laboratories for decades.
The study provides a high-resolution genetic picture of a key research tool for human biology. It highlights the extensive differences that cell lines can have from the human reference, indicating that such characterisation is important for all research involving cell lines and could improve the insights they deliver into human biology.
Policy regarding use
EMBL press and picture releases including photographs, graphics and videos are copyrighted by EMBL. They may be freely reprinted and distributed for non-commercial use via print, broadcast and electronic media, provided that proper attribution to authors, photographers and designers is made.
Scientific communications officer
European Molecular Biology Laboratory - EMBL
T: +49 6221 387 8196
European Molecular Biology Laboratory - EMBL
T: +49 6221 387 8355
Further Reports about: biological process > EMBL > European Molecular Biology Laboratory > fundamental biological process > Genom > HeLa > human cell > Human Genome Project > Human vaccine > Molecular Biology > Molecular Biology Laboratory > Molecular Target > synthetic biology
More articles from Life Sciences:
Spheres can form squares
24.05.2013 | Wageningen University
Ferrets, pigs susceptible to H7N9 avian influenza virus
24.05.2013 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
This morning at 05:45 CEST, the earth trembled beneath the Okhotsk Sea in the Pacific Northwest. The quake, with a magnitude of 8.2, took place at an exceptional depth of 605 kilometers.
Because of the great depth of the earthquake a tsunami is not expected and there should also be no major damage due to shaking.
Professor Frederik Tilmann of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences: "The epicenter is exceptionally deep, far below the earth's crust in the mantle. Such strong ...
The Ring Nebula's distinctive shape makes it a popular illustration for astronomy books. But new observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of the glowing gas shroud around an old, dying, sun-like star reveal a new twist.
"The nebula is not like a bagel, but rather, it's like a jelly doughnut, because it's filled with material in the middle," said C. Robert O'Dell of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
He leads a research team that used Hubble and several ground-based telescopes to obtain the best view yet of ...
New indicator molecules visualise the activation of auto-aggressive T cells in the body as never before
Biological processes are generally based on events at the molecular and cellular level. To understand what happens in the course of infections, diseases or normal bodily functions, scientists would need to examine individual cells and their activity directly in the tissue.
The development of new microscopes and fluorescent dyes in ...
A fried breakfast food popular in Spain provided the inspiration for the development of doughnut-shaped droplets that may provide scientists with a new approach for studying fundamental issues in physics, mathematics and materials.
The doughnut-shaped droplets, a shape known as toroidal, are formed from two dissimilar liquids using a simple rotating stage and an injection needle. About a millimeter in overall size, the droplets are produced individually, their shapes maintained by a surrounding springy material made of polymers.
Droplets in this toroidal shape made ...
Frauhofer FEP will present a novel roll-to-roll manufacturing process for high-barriers and functional films for flexible displays at the SID DisplayWeek 2013 in Vancouver – the International showcase for the Display Industry.
Displays that are flexible and paper thin at the same time?! What might still seem like science fiction will be a major topic at the SID Display Week 2013 that currently takes place in Vancouver in Canada.
High manufacturing cost and a short lifetime are still a major obstacle on ...
24.05.2013 | Life Sciences
24.05.2013 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
24.05.2013 | Physics and Astronomy
17.05.2013 | Event News
15.05.2013 | Event News
08.05.2013 | Event News