Five Favorite Facts
In 1951, George Gey successfully cultured the first immortal human cell line using cells from Henrietta's cervical cancer. The cell line was named HeLa, using the first two letters of Henrietta's first and last name.
In 1953, HeLa cells became the first cells to ever be cloned. This cloning didn't come from just one cell; it came from a small piece of Henrietta's tumor, and this helped to grow thousands of HeLa clones.
In 1965, HeLa cells were fused with mouse cells, which created the first animal-human hybrid cells. This, obviously, freaked out society, because they thought that this meant scientists could now make animal-human monsters. But, of course, society thought wrong.
In 1973, the Lacks family learned for the first time that Henrietta's cells were still alive. This confused them, because they didn't fully understand that it was just her CELLS that were still alive, not her. It was a total shock to them to discover that she had been famous for so long and they hadn't heard a thing.
In 1985, some parts of Henrietta's medical records were published without her family's knowledge or consent. Now, in 1965, people had started to get more serious about informed consent and making sure that the people knew what they were getting into when they signed a paper, but clearly not serious enough. Henrietta's family wasn't aware that someone was going to publish her medical records, and although now that's illegal, it wasn't illegal then, and it happened without the publishers getting in much trouble. The most that happened was the Lacks family got irritated.
“She looks like she wonderin’ where I’m at,” she said. “She look like she needs her sister.”
Deborah was already worrying about her younger sister, Elsie, and what happened to her in the past, but when she and Skloot (the author) went to Crownsville hospital (the “hospital” that Elsie went to) and found a disturbing picture of Elsie, it freaked Deborah out even more. There’s no doubt that she wished with all her heart that the events of the past could have been turned around to where Elsie was okay and still alive. When Deborah and Skloot visited Crownsville, they found information about Elsie that had been kept a secret for years, and Deborah got to know a little more about Elsie that helped put her mind at ease somewhat, even though it was some pretty rough information. She had wanted to know what had happened to Elsie all her life, and when she finally did, it was like everything was slightly more okay. Even though Elsie had to live her life without her family, she is in a better place, and she really is okay.
Cites of Pictures