HeLa Cells on Chin/in Nose? - (Aug/02/2013 )
Today I was working with HeLa cells in the tissue culture and I think some HeLa cells splashed onto my chin. Nothing visible, but I felt a couple tiny specs hit me. I was using the hood/gloves and everything, but I don't think my chair was high enough for the shield on the hood to protect the lower half of my face.
Anyway, I went to the washroom ~5-10 minutes late to wash it off, and when I went to rinse my chin, water went into my nose. Is it possible that the HeLa cells that were on my chin have now gone into my nose.
Sorry if this sounds like a super paranoid question, but I'm quite freaked out because the whole mucus membrane thing.
If you think it is possible that the cells went into my nose, do you think I have anything to be worried about infection-wise? My lab doesn't infect HeLa cells with viruses, but other labs on campus do and I'm just imagining I have HIV or Hep C now.
HeLa won't survive very long on the skin and probably wouldn't survive very well on the nasal mucosa due to the high levels of anti-infection measures that the body produces in that area.
Unless you are immunodeficient/compromised in some manner, you are very unlikely to have any consequences as your immune system should detect and destroy any foreign cells (think implant rejection). HeLa do express some HPV genes, but not the whole genome and do not produce active virus, so there shouldn't be any problems there,
Unless the cells were actively infected with HepC you shouldn't get it from HeLa, and I don't think HIV will infect HeLa (HIV infects CD4+ T-cells).
If you are especially worried, take yourself to your doctor and get yourself checked out for infection. If you notice any signs of an active infection (redness, swelling, fever etc.) over the next couple of days, then it would be best to get checked too.
The cells were from ATCC (http://www.atcc.org/products/all/CCL-2.2.aspx#357C3571006A4259B64650D34DF19048).
It says they contain HPV-18. Is it still safe to assume that they only express some genes and not the whole genome, like you said?
As I rinsed whatever may or may not have been on my chin a couple times before the water went into my nose, I'm not even positive that any cells actually made contact with the nasal mucosa. I asked some lab mates and they all said they wouldn't worry about it, but I do suffer from health anxiety so it's hard to let it go.
HeLa do not shed HPV; the integration of HPV18 was the transforming event that lead to the cervical cancer Ms Lacks developed.
HeLa are so changed from normal human cells that they have different chromosome numbers, a "shattered genome" (where genes normally found on one chromosome are scattered through other ones) and a number of other changes that essentially mean that they are no longer at all normal cells.
Alright, so if my immune system destroyed any cells that did come in contact with the mucus membrane, I should be good, right?
Do you know why they rate HeLa cells on their own as Biosafety Level 2? From what I have read it seems that they are relatively safe in healthy, immunocompetent individuals. Is it just because they have the capacity to be infected and transmit viruses to other human cells?
If a person had another form of HPV and it infected the HeLa cell in their system, is it possible that the HeLa cell could now recombine the virus and produce/shed active HPV18? This is really the only risk I can see that would warrant a level 2.
Thanks for all your help! I just finished my third year of undergrad and this is my first time working in a lab!
I guess if the HeLa cells themselves were contaminated with another HPV virus while being worked on, there could be some recombination there to result in an active HPV18 particle.
But again, I think that is unlikely.
They are BSL2 because of the HPV content (at least that's what the ATCC indicate on the HeLa page), basically this level of containment is used for any transformed cell line, so I wouldn't be too worried about it.
The risk of recombination is really quite low, HPV is not particularly infectious or easily spread and many people are infected with multiple strains of HPV with no signs of recombination.
If you really paranoid about HeLa cells, and want some medicines which got potential to destroy it, I found on pubmed that Ganoderma lucidum extract can inhibit the growth of HeLa cells: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11032363
Here is another paper: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944711309003456
Generally, Ganoderma lucidum had been consume by Chinese and east Asians as health supplements for thousands on years. You can ask your Asian friends on where to get it, if you really want something to make yourself feel better.
No worries, be happy!