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K-State Today

September 25, 2012



Use of HeLa and other cells for research topic of cancer research center's Bascom lecture

By Communications and Marketing

Selling cells is a complicated business, and the best-selling book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot has brought the issue to the forefront of American pop culture. It's also the focus of an upcoming lecture sponsored by Kansas State University's Johnson Cancer Research Center.

Cell culture expert Yvonne Reid will present "HeLa Cells and Biomedical Research: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" for the center's George S. Bascom Memorial Lecture series at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, in the K-State Student Union's Forum Hall. The talk is free and the public is invited. It is one of many events associated with the selection of Skloot's book as the university's common book for 2012.

Skloot's book looks at the impact of studies involving cancer cells taken from the dying Henrietta Lacks without her knowledge. The first immortal human cell line, HeLa cells were widely distributed and provided the basis for many important biomedical advances. They were also so viable that they contaminated many other cell lines.

Reid is a scientist and manager of cell culture contracts at ATCC, or American Type Culture Collection, a private, nonprofit biological resource center and research organization whose mission focuses on the acquisition, authentication, production, preservation, development and distribution of standard reference microorganisms, cell lines and other materials for research in the life sciences.

Reid joined ATCC in 1980. She earned her doctoral degree in zoology from Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1986. Her research during that time focused on the use of DNA-based technology for the identification of human cell lines. Her work led to the implementation of routine screening of all human cell lines at ATCC and other cell banks.

As a collection scientist for ATCC's cell biology program, Reid was responsible for the accessioning of new animal cell lines. Recently, she co-chaired an ATCC committee on the Development of a Consensus Standard for the Authentication of Human Cell Lines.

The Johnson Cancer Research Center's Bascom lecture series was established in 1996 in memory of Manhattan physician George Bascom, who had a significant role in forming the center.

The center is dedicated to supporting cancer research and education at the university. Its programs are made possible through private donations. Information is available at www.cancer.k-state.edu or by calling 785-532-6705.