Monday, May 19, 2008

Henrietta Lacks Died In 1951 .. But She's Still Alive

From Wikipedia:
Henrietta Lacks (August 18, 1920October 4, 1951) was the involuntary (and likely unknowing) donor of cells from her cancerous tumor, which were cultured by George Otto Gey to create an immortal cell line for medical research. This is now known as the HeLa cell line.

Henrietta Lacks has been recognized as an unintentional contributor to science, research, medicine and public health. Her contributions, which began almost immediately after her February 1, 1951 trip to Johns Hopkins Hospital, continue until today. According to reporter Michael Rogers, her visit and the subsequent development of HeLa by a researcher at the hospital, helped answer the demands of 10,000 who marched for a cure to polio just a few days before. By 1954 HeLa was used by Jonas Salk to develop a vaccine for polio. As stated by reporter Van Smith in 2002 a "demand" for HeLa "quickly rose ... the cells were put into mass production and traveled around the globe--even into space, on an unmanned satellite to determine whether human tissues could survive zero gravity".

Reporter Smith continued, "In the half-century since Henrietta Lacks' death, her ... cells ... have continually been used for research into cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation and toxic substances, gene mapping, and countless other scientific pursuits". HeLa was used to test human sensitivity to tape, glue cosmetics, and many other products.

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