Wednesday, October 10, 2018

HeLa Cells

Johns Hopkins has announced that it will name a new research building after Henrietta Lacks. The building is anticipated to be completed in 2020. 

Henrietta Lacks was a young mother of five from eastern Baltimore County who, despite radiation treatment at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, died in 1951 of an aggressive cancer. Lacks was the source of the HeLa cell line that has been critical to numerous advances in medicine.

Henrietta Lacks died on 4 October 1951 at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer and since her death in 1951, cells taken from her tumor have been responsible for important medical advances such as the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, gene mapping, and IVF. Her cells are called HeLa, taking the first 2 letters of the first and last names.

HeLa cells have been reproduced and are now so plentiful that one researcher estimated that, laid end-to-end, they would wrap around the planet at least three times. HeLa cells are a constantly reproducing line of cells that have been used in all kinds of research and experiments.

Sadly, the Lack family never benefited from the advancements in medicine that came from the extraction of Henrietta's cells.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting story. Hopefully her sacrifice and the sacrifices of many others will point towards a cure for cancer. Thanks for sharing.