Henrietta Lacks, He La Cells The Cells that carry a legacy, and the woman behind them By:Erin rachel

Henrietta Lacks was born on August 1, 1920. She was a wife, daughter, and loving mother of 5. She was raised by her grandpa, Tommy Lacks. Her husband was David (Day) Lacks, and their children were Lawrence, David Jr., Elsie, Joe (who later became Zakariyya) and Deborah Lacks.
Henrietta went John Hopkins hospital after noticing a lump in her cervical area. As she arrived her first doctor, Dr. Howard Jones, noticed her medical record of injuries that had never been treated. From gonorrhea to a bad toothache, Henrietta had a long line of visits, but none of which had been followed up with treatment. Jones soon declared that Henrietta had a tumor in her cervix, which had grown in-between her last visit and then; a terrifying three month growth rate. This time Henrietta went in for treatment with Doctor Richard Wesley TeLinde, a radium treatment and then X-Ray soon followed. This worked for a few months. Doctors pronounced her cancer-free. She returned in June stating that she felt her cancer spreading, but doctors couldn't find anything wrong. But the pain worsened, and soon she could hardly go to the restroom. Tumors had built up in her cervix and were surrounding organs and blocking her urethra. While doctors tried to find a cure, the tumors continued to build and build. Henrietta died on October 4, 1951.
Jesus Statue at John Hopkins Hospital that patients rubbed the big toe and prayed before, for good luck.
During her first trreatment for her cancer, Doctor TeLinde took a sample from Henrietta's tumor cells and from her normal cells. He sent them to the Gey lab, where they expected them to die quickly. Her normal ones did just that, but her cancerous cells doubled in quantity. They grew more and more, and never stopped. Gey gave a sample to his colleagues and that started the spreading of HeLa. HeLa cells are the cancer cells taken from Henrietta's tumor, named HeLa from the label Mary Kubicek had placed on the sample tube. Since then HeLa cells have been growing worldwide, and helped find cures, breakthroughs, and vaccinations to many diseases such as; polio, leukemia, Parkinson's disease, cancer, and treatments to diseases, along with so much more.
Tumor Sample, and Gey Lab

Event 1: Henrietta's cells help develop a polio vaccine in 1952

Jonas Salk had taken HeLa cells and had used them to help develop a vaccine to polio. He had been testing his cure on monkeys, but their cells had died, and he needed to test the cure on a large scale to make sure it was a safe option. HeLa cells were donated to help with the development of the vaccine. These cells grew at a extreme rate and allowed Salk to test his vaccine and ensure that it cured the polio virus.

Event 2: Also in 1952 the Tuskegee Institute opened the first HeLa factory

Tuskegee Institute

The Tuskegee Institute opened the HeLa factory in 1952. This created a major change in the transportation of HeLa from lab to lab. It also had a hand in helping with the polio vaccine, because they supplied the HeLa cells to Sulk. This institute was run by 6 black scientists which eventually grew to 35. This institution produced the largest amount of HeLa for a long time, which was contradicted by the current syphilis studies they were doing on black males.

Cancerous HeLa cell

Event 3: HeLa cells become the first cells to be cloned in 1953

HeLa cells had been the first cells cloned at this point and became an important part of the family's understanding. With this discovery, many scientific breakthroughs had been made. But, with this came a large misunderstanding with the family. Deborah and her siblings thought these cells were her actual cells and not her cancer cells, so when they heard of this they though their mother had been recreated. This opened doors for Deborah and her family and also to the world of science.

HeLa cells contaminating other cells

Event 4: Stanely Gartler announces that HeLa is contaminating other cell lines.

When Gartler made this announcement not many believed him, but as time wore on people took his theory seriously, and thanks to this scientist could understand that HeLa is a much more powerful cell line than they expected. With this discovery, many medicines and breakthroughs could be reached through the contamination of HeLa, and more precautionary measures could take place.

George Gey

Event 5: George Gey dies from pancreatic cancer in 1970

After working with cells, cell culture, and cancer cells for many years George Gey dies of pancreatic cancer. This is both ironic and sad. The irony is that this man has devoted his life to using cells to benefit science, yet his own cells were damaged during this process. The sad part is that after many years of studying the cells of others, the scientific world lost a man who knew so much. His own cells were flawed as he was learning about the flaws of others.

" Like I'm always telling my brothers, if you gonna go into history, you can't do it with a hate attitude. You got to remember, times was different." -Deborah Lacks

This quote from Deborah adds so much depth, personality, and effect to the story. I chose this quote because to me it expressed the maturity, sympathy, and gentleness Deborah had for what happened to her mother, and more for what happened to Elsie. In the book she had just heard all of the terrible encounters her sister had been through, yet still she understand. The times had changed and it almost shows acceptance. To the scientific part of the story, it shows the idea that now a days, yes people would be infuriated if the found out a loved ones cells had been taken. But, Deborah expresses the fact that it was okay, and ultimately that it was for the best.This is a turning point in the story, where even though all of the darkness of what happened to the women of this family, Deborah is willing to accept it's all okay. Even though it's viewed wrong now, it was in the past. It can't be changed and she accepts that. This is also a lesson many people in our day and age need to understand. No one is perfect, but let the past be the past and accept if it for what it is; good or bad.

In loving memory of Henrietta Lacks


Created with images by skeeze - "cancer cells cells scan"

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