unTOUCHABLE ART, Russia’s first sociocultural trip, was held in Saint-Petersburg in December. BIOCAD, a biotechnology company, demonstrated how “immortal” HeLa cells are used all over the world in oncology research and in development of anti-cancer drugs. The “IMMORTAL” installation devoted to the first ever cell line is part of a new science-art project that displays cancer research technologies.
HeLa cell line, the most famous of all cell lines, is the first human cell line derived in a laboratory, which is now used in biomedical research when new drugs are developed. These cells are often referred to as “immortal”, as they can divide indefinitely, live for decades, do not require any specific environment for cultivation, can be frozen and preserved. These cells entered the big science by chance. They were taken from Henrietta Lacks, a young African-American woman who died of cervical cancer.
The medical community knows this story very well, and its use in a theatrical performance is a way to attract attention to the cancer issue, to emphasize the need in constant prevention and early diagnostics of the disease.
“We take part in this sociocultural project to help make people aware that there are state-of-the-art cancer therapies in Russia, and so they can live without fear. In Russia, several million patients live with cancers, so BIOCAD, being a socially responsible company, wants them to know about new, affordable, and effective therapies. HeLa cell line has contributed to the development of these new therapies, since it was derived over 60 years ago. The main principles of working with cell cultures were formulated back then, and this enabled the development of many modern directions of biotechnology and medicine. Today, scientists discover and test effective medicinal products using hundreds of various immortalized cell lines, and HeLa cells helped to decipher the mechanisms of malignant tumour growth and to develop methods of molecular diagnostics” – says Irina Kenyukhova, Head of Communications in BIOCAD.
BIOCAD representatives claim that the Installment is based on significant amount of research and uses only reliable data: “Science is on par with art, and we hope this project will help the society to realize that science should become the theme of socially relevant plays.”