“Henrietta Pleasant Lacks” grew up on a farm in rural Clover, Virginia. After Henrietta married David Lacks, they moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 1943. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks went to Johns Hopkins Hospital after experiencing severe abdominal pains. After being tested, she found out that she had an advanced case of cervical cancer. The doctors at Johns Hopkins were looking for human cells that could grow outside the body.
So in addition to treating Henrietta, they took a piece of her tumor tissue and performed a culture to see if the cells would continue to grow. They were amazed that the cells did indeed grow. The tumor tissue was used by researcher “George Gey” who developed the first human cell line known as the “HeLa cells”, and six decades later, they are still growing.
Henrietta’s cells were essential in many scientific developments, from the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, breakthroughs and landmark research in HIV, HPV vaccine, tuberculosis, to testing her cells in the very first space mission to see what would happen to human cells in zero gravity. Other discoveries achieved, at least in part by using her cells include vitro fertilization, cloning, gene mapping, dental products, tests for human sensitivity to products such as glue, tape, cosmetics and chemicals.
Observing “HeLa cells” also provided a basis for much of what science knows about the behavior and division of human cells. With her cells being able to reproduce an entire generation every 24 hours, over 80.000 research articles and more than 17,000 patents involving “HeLa cells”, the knowledge and achievements gained from this discovery have helped to save millions of people lives.
With this being “National Breast Cancer Awareness Month”, learn more about the women behind the cells that have help saved so many cancer survivors. Her oldest son Lawrence Lacks and his Bobbette Lacks, for the first time decided to tell their story in this short memoir, that will give you a personal perspective of who his mother really was.
You can find it on Amazon: “HeLa Family Stories”.
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Hela cell, HeLa Family Stories, Cancer, Polio, Medical breakthroughs