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HeLa Cells of Henrietta Lacks Book
A new book looks at the life and cells of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman whose cells were taken without her consent. Today her cells called HeLa cells is spearheading medical discoveries around the world.
By: Nishi Singh
Who are Henrietta Lacks and George Otto Gey?
She was Henrietta Lacks, the black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951 at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the only hospital that treated blacks in the area. He was Dr George Otto Gey, the researcher at the hospital, who took her biopsy and grew cells out of it to create the first human immortal cell line.
Henrietta Lacks has to be one of the very few women who died but still lives on through her cells. Her cells still lives in countless culture flasks in labs around the world. If it had not been for George Otto Gey who had not sent it all over the world for other scientists to carry out pioneering research, the world would not have known the cells of Henrietta Lacks. When Gey was given these cells in his lab at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, no permission was taken from either Henrietta or her family. But that the norm in those days, things like patient consent or medical ethics did not exist. He called these cells “HeLa” cells after the first 2 letters of her name. When asked about these cells, the team at his lab said that the name of the lady was Helan Lane or Helen Larson.
What are HeLa Cells?
Today, HeLa cells are the most widely used cell line in the world. It has helped eradicate polio. HeLa cells were the cells that were used by Jonas Salk to create the vaccine for polio. It was the very first cells to be sent to space to monitor the effect of gravity on human cells. HeLa cells today are instrumental in research against AIDS. It was the first human cells to be cloned. It became the first cells to be posted by mail. From cosmetic research to gene mapping, HeLa cells are used for countless medical and scientific research. It was put into mass produced to be sold to the scientific community, all this without the family of Henrietta Lacks knowing about it. Demand for HeLa cells are more than ever before.
The irony of this is that the family of Henrietta Lacks had no idea about the existence of the cells and they are so poor that they could not afford medical insurance.
When the book “Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by an American journalist and author Rebecca Skloot, was published, it then when the world got to know about this extraordinary cells line and the plight of the Lack’s family. Her book looks at the life of Henriettal Lacks and her family. She examines impact of HeLa had on science and the legacy on Lacks’ family.
A new book: HeLa Cells of Henrietta Lacks
A new book “HeLa Cells of Henrietta Lacks” by Nishi Singh has been published. This book looks at amazing HeLa cells in more details. The book describes what the cells are and how it was grown in culture by Gey and the science behind ability of these cells to grow indefinitely.
Nishi Singh maintains the website: http://www.helacells.com
The book "HeLa Cells of Henrietta Lacks” is available on all Amazon stores.