The HeLa cell line was derived from a fatal cervical carcinoma. The HeLa genome was created by horizontal gene transfer from human papillomavirus 18 (HPV18) to human cervical cells. The genome is different from either parent genome, including the number of chromosomes. HeLa cells have a modal chromosome number of 82, with 4 copies of chromosome 12 and 3 copies of chromosomes 6, 8, and 17. These cells proliferate abnormally rapidly, even compared to other cancer cells. HeLa cells have an active version of the enzyme telomerase during cell division, which prevents the incremental shortening of telomeres that is implicated in aging and eventual cell death. The cells allow for episomal amplification of transfected plasmids and extended temporal expression of the desired gene products.
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