hela cell

Henrietta Lacks’s family wants compensation for her cells
Lacks’s son says Johns Hopkins should compensate the family for mom’s cells.

“The eldest son of Henrietta Lacks wants compensation from Johns Hopkins University and possibly others for the unauthorized use of her cells in research that led to decades of medical advances.

Lawrence Lacks said that he is the executor of his mother’s estate and that an agreement that the National Institutes of Health made with other family members over the years regarding the use of the cells was not valid. That agreement did not include compensation.

The cells taken from the 31-year-old from Turners Station, Md., after she died of an aggressive form of cervical cancer in 1951 were the first to live outside the body in a glass tube. They were dubbed the HeLa cells and have become the most widely used human cells that exist in scientific research.

Vaccines, cancer treatments and in vitro fertilization are among the many medical techniques derived from her cells.

“My mother would be so proud that her cells saved lives,” Lawrence Lacks said in a statement. “She’d be horrified that Johns Hopkins profited while her family to this day has no rights.”

January 29, 1951 Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old mother of five visited John’s Hopkins Hospital due to vaginal spotting. At Hopkin’s, the only hospital servicing African Americans, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The head of tissue culture, Dr. George Gey, stole a piece of her tissue without Henrietta’s knowledge or consent. Unfortunately, this was completely legal.

Dr. Gey referred to himself as the “world’s most famous vulture, feeding on human specimens almost constantly,” and if that’s not the most chilling thing a doctor has said I don’t know what is. When he stole Henrietta Lacks’s cells, he was researching tissue cultures and attempting to sustain them long enough to study. Because her cancer cells can divide indefinitely in culture, so long as they have a continuous supply of nutrients, they’re called “immortal cells.”

Henrietta’s cell line doubled every 24 hours and Dr. Gey sent these cells to cancer researchers across the world. In 1952, at the Tuskegee institute, Henrietta’s cells (HeLa cells) were being mass produced and eventually sold commercially. Due to these cells, there has and continues to be an enormous amount of medical advancement. The development of the polio vaccine, the first cloned cell, radiation exposure testing, cancer transmission testing (through injection into other patients, another terrible tragedy) and other advancements are owed to Henrietta Lacks. The sale of her cells boomed as a multi-million dollar industry.

The Lacks family meanwhile, had very little information about Henrietta’s cells. There were a few published articles out of the state of Virgina , where the Lacks’ family resides, but it’s speculated that Dr. Gey attempted to cover up the discovery of Henrietta Lacks’s identity by giving false information about her name. The family was poor and even struggled to cover the costs of their own healthcare. Although the story of Henrietta Lacks came out, to this day, the Lacks family hasn’t received a single cent of the profits made off of her cells.

As potential physicians and caregivers, I think we owe it to ourselves to be aware of the injustices the medical community has committed. I was informed of this by my biology teacher, and I felt compelled to share with all of you.

Please let me know if any of this information is incorrect!

Henrietta Lacks was the only human being to carry genetics ( The Hela Genome) nih.gov resistant to all known human diseases. During a cervical exam, doctors took her cells and continued to take her cells through future exams in order to create vaccines that created resistance to measles, mumps, polio, HIV, and all other known viruses. All of this was done without her knowledge, consent and compensation. Her story is finally getting told. Happy Black History Month.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks was only 31 when she died of cervical cancer in 1951 in a Baltimore hospital. Not long before her death, doctors removed some of her tumor cells. They later discovered that the cells could thrive in a lab, a feat no human cells had achieved before.

Soon the cells, called HeLa cells, were being shipped from Baltimore around the world. In the 62 years since — twice as long as Ms. Lacks’s own life — her cells have been the subject of more than 74,000 studies, many of which have yielded profound insights into cell biology, vaccines, in vitro fertilization and cancer. Lacks’s case has sparked legal and ethical debates over the rights of an individual to his or her genetic material and tissue. (Source)


The world has a lot to thank Henrietta Lacks for, and yet many do not know what she has contributed. From helping to create the polio vaccine to the study of radiation, Henrietta and her HeLa cells have changed the world.

Watch on ucsdhealthsciences.tumblr.com

A Hela cancer cell undergoes division or mitosis.

Cell Immortal

In early 1951, a 30-year-old black tobacco farmer and mother of five named Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer by a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. A biopsy was conducted, the sample eventually passed along to the head of tissue culture research, Dr. George Gey, who had been attempting unsuccessfully for years to produce a line of immortal human cells – cells that could be grown in culture indefinitely, frozen without harm for years and easily divided into batches to be shared and studied by scientists everywhere.

Lacks’ malignant cells proved to be a godsend. With them, Gey created the first immortal cell line, dubbing them “HeLa cells” in recognition of their source. Henrietta Lacks never knew of the honor: The cells were harvested without her permission and she died just a few months after her cancer diagnosis.

Gey understood the significance of his achievement. He announced it on national television. More importantly, he freely donated both the cells and his techniques to interested scientists. As a result, HeLa cells have profoundly transformed medical research. They are the most commonly used cell line in the world. Uncountable trillions have been produced.  Jonas Salk used HeLa cells to develop the first polio vaccine. They have been employed for research into cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation and toxins, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization and myriad other scientific endeavors. They went up on the first space missions to investigate what happens to cells in zero gravity. In her 2010 book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” author Rebecca Skloot estimates at least 60,000 scientific articles have been published about research done with HeLa cells. The work, like the cells themselves, goes on, unabated.

In this fluorescence light micrograph produced by Thomas Deerinck at the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at the University of California, San Diego, HeLa cells are colored to reveal specific structures: nuclei, which contain the cells’ genetic instructions, in dark blue; microtubules, essential to maintaining cell structure, in lighter blue and actin, an important protein, in red.

Wolverine can quickly heal from pretty much any wound, an ability he shares with Marvel Comics character/4chan personification Deadpool. In the comics, Deadpool undergoes an experimental procedure that “implants” him with Wolverine’s healing factor, which leaves Deadpool both ugly and insane … but hey, it works! There are some kinks to be ironed out, sure, but why isn’t this a bigger deal? At the very least, studying Wolverine’s cells could help cure diseases and advance medical science. We know this because there’s actually something like that in the real world: HeLa cells, named for Henrietta Lacks, the woman they were found in.

HeLa cells are “immortal,” in the sense that they don’t die after leaving the human body. Since they were discovered in the ‘50s, they’ve been used in developing vaccines, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and have even been shot into space, because sometimes even Science gets bored. Now imagine what we could do with cells that are actually immortal, not just technically. Annoyances like broken bones, the common cold, or even death would become a thing of the past. If Wolverine is committed to the greater good, he’ll stop using those hands to stab ninjas and start using them to jerk off into a cup.

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