The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks - Black History Month

Have you heard of Henrietta Lacks? Henrietta Lacks passed at 31 years old on October 4th 1951 due to cervical cancer but her cells live on today. Henrietta Lacks is the first known human to have immortal cells which basically means that the cells found in her cancer can divide indefinitely, which is very important to science research.
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Her cells, HeLa cells, have been used to develop a vaccine for polio, they were the first human cells to be successfully cloned, her cells were put into mass production in the first ever cell production factory, they've been used in research into AIDs, cancer, gene mapping, effects of radiation and probably every research involving humans. Scientists have grown some 20 tons of her cells, and there are almost 11,000 patents involving HeLa cells.
Even though she never consented to her cells being used, her cells are saving soooo many people's lives, at the time her family can't afford access to the advances that their mother made possible.
When Henrietta’s cells were originally taken, they were given the code name “HeLa”, the first two letters in Henrietta and Lacks. When members of the press got close to finding the source of the cells and came close to finding Henrietta’s family, the researcher who grew the cells made up a pseudonym, Helen Lane, to try to keep the source of the cells anonymous???
Because of this, her real name wasn’t publicly known until the 1970s.
Now, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., have honoured Lacks by installing a painting of her just inside one of its main entrances, three of Lacks' grandchildren were there.
Henrietta Lacks The Shopping Circle Black Business Black History Month

HBO commissioned this painting after the company made a movie based on the award-winning nonfiction book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. The canvas is co-owned by the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Bill Pretzer, a senior curator at the African-American museum, says the story of Lacks is also one of racial history, bioethics and medical history.

"Doctors had been trying for half a century to grow cells in laboratory circumstances that would reproduce," Pretzer said.

Lacks' cells did. What's become known as her "immortal line" is represented in the painting, said Pretzer, by a pattern in her cheerful red dress that resembles cell structures when you look at it closely.

Along with the painting, Lacks has been re-remembered in all kinds of ways in recent years: She received a posthumous doctorate in public service from a college in Maryland. A high school for students interested in medicine now bears her name. So does a minor planet whirling in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.


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