Learn About Henrietta Lacks The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

THE CANCER: Henrietta Lacks was an average African American woman in the Mid/Early 1900's. Until one day she realized some pain in her lower region. Many black at that time didn't go to the doctor unless it was absolutely necessary, and Henrietta wasn't an exception. Finally, on January 29, 1951 Henrietta went to the John Hopkins hospital to see what was wrong. That day the doctor diagnosed hers symptoms as a sore from syphilis. The doctors took a sample of her cervix's. The sample was positive for cervical cancer, so the doctors immediately began treating Henrietta's cancer with radium treatment to help "cure" her. However, the radium treatment turned Henrietta's whole abdomen a charcoal color and drained her of energy. Radium wasn't working and eventually the cancer spread throughout her whole body. This caused Henrietta to be fully hospitalized. Her kidneys was covered in small tumors which made it impossible for the toxin to be filtered from her blood. As a result, she had to have multiple blood transfusion. Henrietta had to stop having blood transfusion because of the amount of transfusion she had done. Henrietta's pain terrible and she even had to be strapped to her bed because of her thrashing and screaming. On October 4, 1951 Henrietta died of cervical cancer (uremia).

Henrietta Lacks

HOW HELA GOT OUT: Before Henrietta The sample of Henrietta's cervical tissue was given to George Gey. This man was on the hunt to discover the First Immortal human cells. Miraculously Henrietta's cell was just what was looking for. The name HeLa was given to the cells in Gey's lab. Gey told anyone and everyone about his discovery, and even gave out samples to any scientist that asked. After Henrietta died Gey never told the family about the cells. Even a HeLa Factory( The Tuskegee Institute) was created to produce HeLa cells, and to find a polio vaccine. Soon the Tuskegee Institute would sell HeLa cell profit. Many other scientist made ground breaking discoveries with the help of HeLa.

George Gey + Henrietta Lacks

What's a HeLa Cell: HeLa cells are immortal cells that can continue to live and reproduce outside of the human body. Before HeLa regular human cell couldn't survive in cell culture. Scientist had a hard time keeping a their research alive. HeLa cell reproduced quickly so a small sample of the cell could grow into an even bigger amount. The HeLa cells are not the only immortal cell lines, but the unique thing about them is the reformation and growth of the telomerase. The Hay flick limit is based of the telomerase shorting causing a limited amount of cell division, but HeLa doesn't follow that rule. These variables make HeLa very easy to work with.

HeLa Cells
  • HeLa cells help develop a polio vaccine in 1952: this moment shows how important HeLa cell are to the development and growth of scientific discoveries. Without HeLa cells the development of medicines and treatment wouldn't be as advanced as it is now. The polio vaccine is a brilliant example because billions of people around the world would suffer. However Henrietta's cells help find the cure.
  • The Pseudonym, Helen Lane: the name Helen Lane appeared in print in 1954. The Name Helen Lane was meant to misdirect the curious people away from Henrietta. However, this also gave the credit of the cells to someone else , and caused confusion. This is an important point in history because it shows how the Helen Lane name came into existence.
  • The HeLa Bomb 1966: Stanley Gartler dropped the HeLa bomb, to inform the other scientist of false research. Many scientist depended of the cell culture collection for different types of cell lines. However, Gartler's news said if an cell line was in contact with a HeLa cell it would be over taken by HeLa cell, contaminating everything. Gartler proved his theory by connecting the cell marker G6PD-A which is a rare marker only found in African Americans, but all the cell culture contained it. The only known cell at that time that came from an African American was HeLa. The biggest blow was that all the research other scientist had done for a cure for cancer were invalid. Many scientist began to doubt the reality of a cure.
  • Lacks family learns for the first time about Henrietta's living cell-1972: None of the family is very educated, and the information of Henrietta's cell brought great confusion. The first thought are "Henrietta's alive!". The lack of information the family has about their own relative is not healthy. The family, over the years after the HeLa discovery, will be hound for information they don't even know themselves
  • Researchers from Hopkins take sample from Henrietta's children-1972: the need for a genetic marker to see which cell were HeLa and which were not was proposed by Gey. He offered to get samples of the family members blood so that that scientist could identify the HeLa cells. When Day (Henrietta's Husband) get the phone call, and think that the doctors are coming to test the family for cancer. the miscommunication cause the family to stress about result that don't exist.

"Hopkins say they gave them cells away," Lawrence yelled, "but they made millions! It's not fair! She's the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother so important to science, why can't we get health insurance?

The Quote is very important event in the book because the families problems are officially voiced. Henrietta as said in the quote was "the most important person in the world" her cells help discover important cures and even uncover the most complex characteristic of a cell. However, the family is "living in poverty" not even able to get health insurance. Rebecca Skloot made the book for two specific reasons. ONE) to identify the women behind the HeLa cells, and TWO) to tell what all her family went through. The more Skloot found out about Henrietta the more connected the family became. The scientific community has been unfair to the Lack's. Henrietta's DNA is their DNA. Henrietta's cell are their cells.

The Lacks Family

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