Yoooooooo look up the story of Henrietta Lax and her cells because it is absolutely terrifying. She was essentially killed by a one of a kind form of cancer that to my knowledge had never been seen before and had never been seen again. The cancer cells extracted from her body replicated far faster than normal, even for cancer cells. The were even more durable and difficult to kill than normal cells. Her cells were made into the first ever cells that were kept alive and replicating outside of the human body, so like it says in the post, her cells became commercially available and were used all over the place.
The scary part comes in a while after that. Once scientists had figured out how to make cells replicate outside the body using other means, a number of cell lines became available. Sometimes the scientists would even start them from their own blood cells. However, at some point, people began to notice that certain cells in various cell lines would occasionally become cancerous, for seemingly no reason at all. The first theory was that a virus was the cause for cancer, which spawned a giant and expensive search for the human cancer virus. However, one day, a white scientist noticed that spontaneous cancer cells in his own blood cell line were emitting enzymes that were only known to exist in black individuals. Henrietta Lacks was black. He realized that cells that had previously thought to have turned cancerous had actually been contamination from the cells of Henrietta Lacks.
This was not only the case for almost every cell line in the country, but the world. When The US and Russia were collaborating to find a cure for cancer, Russia sent the US a briefcase full of what the believed to be cells that had isolated the human cancer virus. What the Americans found was none other than the cells of Henrietta Lacks. Her cells had even penetrated the iron curtain.
Tl;dr, HeLa cells (As they’re called) are super-zombie cells that exist almost everywhere and cannot be stopped no matter what.
Fun fact: The total weight of Henrietta Lack’s cells today is greater than what she weighed when she was alive.
It can be said that this woman is still alive today, as a single-celled organism.
Different strains of her cancer cells have adapted on their own to different captive conditions; she continues to evolve.
There’s also a form of dog cancer, CTVT, which we now know is just the cellular matter of a single long-dead dog. It spreads to other dogs through sexual contact. ("It’s an asexual, single-celled mammal, in a sense. We joke about calling it Canis cancer”)
Devil Facial Tumor, currently destroying Tasmanian devil populations, is also an immortal cell line from one mutant specimen. It grows a fleshy “mask” over the host’s face, which causes enough stress that the already very bitey animals become even more prone to biting each other, which is how the facial tumor spreads.
I read a book about her in high school and it was super interesting and you should all read it.