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‘Living Doll’ Made of Human Cancer Cells [Culture Dish]

Liver Cancer Cell DollResearchers have grown a “Living Doll” that looks like some strange mix between Gumbi and a gingerbread man but is actually made of living cancer cells (see above).  According to the New Scientist, the technique used to grow the Gumbi Gingerbread Man “could allow drugs to be tested on more complex tissue structures,” but they’re pretty vague on how it might do that.  It has to do with the fact that the Cultured Gumbi Gingerbread Man is actually a complex 3-D structure made of multiple cell types, which means it’s more similar to a human organ than individual cultured cells are (though it’s still seriously freakin different). 

Unlike the amazing HeLa cells that I’m writing my book about, this poor doll’s cells weren’t immortal:  The Gumbi Gingerbread Man died the day after he was grown.  Here’s shot of the little guy at his actual size.  (Photo credit here).

Update:  The cells used to create this doll were HepG2 cells (thanks, Abel!) — they were grown in the 70s using liver cancer cells from a 15 year old boy.  He had hepatitis B, which makes me think he (like Ted Slavin) was probably a hemophiliac who got hepatitis through a blood transfusion, which was common before it was possible (thanks in part to Slavin) to test the blood supply for the virus. Unlike the story of the HeLa cells, no one knows the identity of the boy these cells came from.  I’d bet anything he never knew his cells were grown and patented, let alone turned into a living doll.     Read the comments on this post…

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