Henrietta Lacks By Danni Gilley

Henrietta Lacks went to Johns Hopkins Hospital on January 29, 1951. There, she was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer. She was treated with Radium Tube Inserts as in inpatient and discharged a few days later and told to return a few days later for an X-ray. During her treatment, two samples (one of healthy tissue and one of cancerous tissue) were taken from her cervix without her knowledge and permission. In October of 1951, Henrietta died at the age of 31 at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Carcinoma of the Cervix, often called Cervical cancer, is a tumor that forms in the lower part of the uterus. Normal cervix cells gradually develop into pre-cancer cells that change into cancer cells. Carcinoma of the cervix starts in the lining of the uterus and grows from there. it cannot grow unless it is attached to the lower uterus. The tumor is usually a pink color but in Henrietta's case, it was "like purple jell-o". It usually takes a few years for the tumor to grow, but Henrietta's tumor was not noticeable when she had her last child; however it was significantly noticeable a few months later when she went to Johns Hopkins, which means her cells were growing at an alarming rate.

Before Henrietta died, she went to Johns Hopkins Hospital on August 8, 1951 for a routine checkup and was admitted to the hospital due to severe abdominal pain. She stayed in the hospital until she died on October 4, 1951. She died because she had Invasive Carcinoma of the cervix and it had metastasized throughout her body. She was buried in an unmarked grave in the Lacks' family cemetery in Halifax Country, Virginia.

After her death, Gey had his lab assistant take more HeLa cell samples while her body was at Johns Hopkins autopsy facility. He was able to start a cell line by isolating one cell and repeatedly dividing it, meaning that the same cells could be used for conducting expiraments.

HeLa cells are an immortal line of cells used for scientific research. They have been used to develop the Polio vaccine. They gave (us) a better understanding of cancer, HIV and cells in general. They have been taken into space and exposed to toxins and nuclear testing.

1951-George Gey successfully cultures the first immortal human cell line using cells from Henrietta’s cervix. It is given the name HeLa after the first two initials of Henrietta’s first and last names.

1952-HeLa cells become the first living cells shipped via postal mail.

1952-The Tuskegee Institute opens the first “HeLa factory,” supplying cells to laboratories and researchers and operating as a nonprofit. Within a few years, a company named Microbiological Associates would begin selling HeLa for profit.

1953-HeLa cells become the first cells ever cloned.

1954-Chester Southam begins to conduct experiments without patient consent to see whether or not injections of HeLa cells could cause cancer.

"A lot of people don't believe it. But you can have eternal life. Just look at Henrietta."

This quote stood out to me because people think that immortality is impossible. Henrietta proved that wrong because her cells are immortal.


Created with images by skeeze - "hela cells cultured electron microscope" • euthman - "CIN 3 With Gland Involvement"

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