Saturday, December 3, 2011

HeLa vs HeLa S3

While searching online for other transformed cell lines, I came across the cell line HeLa S3. Initially I thought, "Holy s***, biotech companies are making better versions of HeLa cell lines, just like apple is always making better versions of the iPhone (iPhone, iPhone3, iPhone3GS, iPhone4, etc...)!"; so I decided to look further in to HeLa S3. It turns out that the HeLa S3 is one of the mutants of the original HeLa cell that requires different growth requirements, and it was discovered by University of Colorado School of Medicine's T.T. Puck. Also HeLa cells when cultured are heterogeneous containing more than one type of mutants, and from the heterogenous HeLa, he was able to isolate HeLa S3.
What he did was culture normal HeLa cells similar to one Dr. Gey cultured, on top of a feeder layer, which is a layer of x-irradiated cells not able to reproduce, but it provides the favorable environment for colony formation permitting the HeLa which could not initially reproduce, to reproduce. The parental layer of cells are the cells directly obtained from macroscopic biopsy, prior to cultivation in tissue culture. He discovered that the, primary cells differed from the parental layer, in which if isolated and cultured produced larger and more uniform colonies compared to that of the feeder layer.
He discovered two mutant strains (S1 and S3) of HeLa, S in honor of physician and scientist Dr. Florence Rena Sabin and the number indicates the order they're cloned. According to Puck and Fisher, "
Both S1 and S3 cell strains have the same typical HeLa cell morphology, and both readily display the ability to grow either in tightly packed, columnar form, or as loose, migratory, stretched cells, depending on whether the serum component is equine, bovine, or porcine, on the one hand, or human on the other (2). (Puck, Fisher, 429).

Dr. T.T. Puck

However HeLa S3, is able to grow larger and in spherical colonies rather than 2D monolayers, and S3 can form colonies with fewer concentrations of human serum in media, compared to that of normal HeLa cells, and is perfectly suited for fetal calf serum. Also inositol is required in the media when grown without feeder layer, and cholesterol is also required. According to author, professor, and cancer researcher, Abel Pharmboy, "the[HeLa] cells grow optimally in the presence of inositol and cholesterol but other cell lines have much more stringent requirements for non-essential amino acids, substrates for oxidative phosphorylation, and only tolerate very narrow ranges of pH."

To know more about Dr. Puck's work click on the link below:

To know more about Abel Pharmboy's Blog on the difference between HeLa and HeLa H3, Dr. Florence Rena Sabin, and Dr. T.T. Puck, click on the link below:


  1. When Dr. B gave us the assignment for lab supply listing, I actually typed to HeLa just to see what shows up; and it actually shows lots of varieties and I had no idea why there were so many HeLa types (like HeLa DH, HeLa S3, and also HeLa derivatives !!) when it came from one person. I thought scientist changed the cells genetically somewhat and reproducing and supplying them. I did not know the cells were heterogeneous. Now I know.

    Thank you for the posting Aldrian.

  2. No worries Kashfia. Yeah I initially had the same thought.

  3. awesome research, thanks for the post

  4. This was really interesting, thank you for sharing!

  5. what great post of the best ...

  6. Thank you for sharing this knowledge with us all.