Today, these incredible cells— nicknamed “HeLa” cells, from the first two letters of her first and last names — are used to study the effects of toxins, drugs, hormones and viruses on the growth of cancer cells without experimenting on humans. They have been used to test the effects of radiation and poisons, to study the human genome, to learn more about how viruses work, and played a crucial role in the development of the polio vaccine.
-Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Henrietta Lacks (neé Loretta Pleasant) 8/1/1920- 10/4/1951
- Diagnosed with cervical cancer after giving birth to her fifth child
- Lacks’ cancer cells were used, without her knowledge, to create the HeLa cell line which is still used in medical research today.
- (2013) Researchers published DNA sequencing information of a strain of HeLa cells, which prompted Henrietta Lacks’ family to raise privacy concerns.
- Lacks’ family is now involved in access and control of HeLa DNA via committee; even still, knowledge and use of her genetic information (and cells) continues to be an critical issue relative to patient privacy and rights.
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