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Henrietta Lacks: A Women We Should All Know
Most people have never heard of Henrietta Lacks, however, she is one of the main reasons why a lot of us are here today. It is because of Henrietta Lacks that many of our parents and grandparents have survived cancer, polio and a lot of other diseases. How so? Continue to read on.
Henrietta Lacks was a poor black woman with a middle school education. She worked as a tobacco farmer in Virginia when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 30. But in 1951 she made what has been one of the greatest contributions in medical history. In 1951, while at Johns Hopkins, the cells that were taken from a cervical-cancer biopsy (without her knowledge) became the first of the “immortal human cell line”. You see, it is Lacks cells that are used, still to this day, as a standard in science labs across the globe.
Here is a list of things that the “HeLa cells” have accomplished:
- In 1952, it was Lack’s cells that were used to test the vaccine for the Polio epidemic that eventually protected millions of people from getting sick and dying.
- Working with HeLa’s cells allowed scientists to learn how to isolate one specific cell, multiply it and start a whole new cell line. This is now the procedure that is used in cloning and in-vitro fertilization
- By accidentally pouring a chemical on one of HeLa’s cells causing the cell to spread out its tangled chromosomes, scientists were able to repeat this procedure and later come to the conclusion that humans have 46 chromosomes and 23 pairs. This is used to help provide feedback when making genetic diagnoses.
- Anti-cancer drugs where made using Hela’s cancerous cells.
- HeLa’s cells were used in the first space mission to see what would happen to the cells in zero gravity.
With all of the accomplishments that HeLa and her cells accomplished neither her or her family knew that her cells were being used and they most certainly did not know that it was because of her cells that all of these accomplishments had been made in science.
To find out more information on Henrietta Lacks visit:
View pictures of Henrietta and her legacy.