the Immortality of Hela By Mr. President Ambassador Gov. Emperor Gen. Count Rev. King Dr. Prof. Squire Head Master Sensei Archduke Sir Lord Friendly-Neighborhood Local Attourney Drew Williams MD

Henrietta Lacks was born on August 1, 1920. She grew up in Clover, Virginia and married her first cousin David Lacks. After having 4 kids, she noticed a lump in her cervix which would change the world of science forever, but she would never know. She traveled to Johns Hopkins, was eventually diagnosed with cancer, and received radiation treatment in order to kill her cancer. This would lead to multiple side effects and eventually her death, although her official cause of death was uremia. Before she died, George Gey took a sample of her cells to start a cell line: this was the birth of HeLa.

(Not this kind of clover)
Cancer cells

HeLa cells are rapidly dividing cancer cells that derived from Henrietta Lacks. The cells contain her DNA but are only her cancer cells, not her normal cells. These cells are able to divide indefinitely because they are malignant. As a result of this, scientists have used HeLa in their research to find cures for diseases. The original cell sample was taken by George Gey, but soon after it was collected, he began distributing the samples as they multiplied. Simply "giving out " the samples turned into selling them. This was the beginning of a world-wide epidemic of a business that was on its way.

*Insert cash register sound*

5 Important Events from the HeLa Timeline

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1951: George Gey created the first successful immortal cell line. The cells were collected from Henrietta Lacks and were named "HeLa", which are the first two letters of her first and last name combined. Gey did not have Henrietta's consent before taking the sample. Little did she know how much it would change the world.

1966: Stanley Gartler proposed that the HeLa cell line had been contaminating other cell lines due to its malignancy. Because this information was so shocking to the scientists and everyone listening, the statement is referred to as the "HeLa bomb".

1970: When he was 71, George Gey was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He asked his surgeons to take samples of his tumors, but the cancer was found to be inoperable. It spread to his stomach, spleen, liver, and intestines. Because of this, the doctors could not grant Gey's wish and didn't collect any samples.

1973: Before they were informed, the family of Henrietta Lacks didn't know about the cell sample George Gey took or what scientists were using the cells for. Even when they eventually found out, they didn't truly understand how Henrietta could be dead and her cells be alive. For under-educated tobacco farmers, that's pretty understandable.

1985: In '85, Michael Gold published a book titled A Conspiracy of Cells: One Woman's Immortal Legacy and the Medical Scandal It Caused. This book contained detailed information only found within Henrietta's medical records. When Deborah got the book and read almost directly from her mother's medical records in it, she broke. No one in her family had ever read the records or given anyone at Hopkins permission to release them to anyone. It became very difficult for Deborah to handle because she literally read about how her mother died, not having known before.

"'Yeah, Hopkins pretty much screwed up, I think,' Christoph said. Deborah bolted upright and looked at him, stunned to hear a scientist--one at Hopkins, no less--saying such a thing."--"All That's My Mother", Page 266

Even though this is the image everyone thinks of when the word "hospital" comes into play, it isn't the kind of hospital that would have been around in the 50's. Especially not for use with Negroes.

Johns Hopkins was founded for a good cause. It accomplished many great things before Henrietta Lacks knocked on their door. But when she finally started her consistent visits, they wronged her by not telling her she would be infertile from her radiation treatment and taking her cells without consent. This left behind a bad taste in the Lackses mouths and a hatred in their hearts that would last decades. So when Deborah, Zakariyya, and Skloot traveled to Hopkins to finally see Henrietta's cells, Christoph's words were of complete surprise to them. They would have never expected anyone from that hospital to say anything along the lines of that at all and it really got to them.

Credits:

Created with images by skeeze - "hela cells cultured electron microscope" • Kathleen Tyler Conklin - "Clover" • skeeze - "cancer cells cells scan" • geralt - "dollar currency money" • KirkOls - "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" • markhillary - "My bed"

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