Original Hela Cells

1049 Words 5 Pages
Though some might not know a thing about them, HeLa cells have affected an abundance of people. Original HeLa cells were cut from the cervix of the African American woman known as Henrietta Lacks. Born as Loretta Lacks, Henrietta was born in Roanoke, Virginia on August 1, 1920. At the age of 30, Henrietta was diagnosed with “Epidermoid carcinoma of the cervix, Stage I” (24). Her cancer could not be defeated and Henrietta died October 4, 1951. Before her death, Dr. George Gey of George Hopkins Hospital cut a piece of her cancerous cervix without Henrietta’s permission. After her death, Gey tested Henrietta’s cells and found her cells would grow in culture, unlike all the other cells Gey has tested in the past. Gey collected and cultured …show more content…
He distributed Henrietta’s cells all around the world, and there was no end of supply. Scientists experimented on these cells, injecting them with viruses, and bacteria. They knew these cells as HeLa, but did not know the name of the woman whom the cells were taken from, nor did they care. Once people wanted to put a name to these immortal cells, the media misnamed the woman and called her Henrietta Lakes, Helen Lane, and Helen Larson. In September of 1966, HeLa cells started contaminating other cell cultures. HeLa cells moved from lab to lab, person to person. The media did not know who Henrietta Lacks was because they assumed her name was Helen Lane. Soon, the media and the people became interested in who Henrietta Lacks was. Rebecca Skloot learned about Henrietta Lacks when she was “sixteen and sitting in a community college biology class” (9). Unlike other media, Skloot was intrigued by the story of Henrietta Lacks and was also interested in the Lacks family. She explored with the Lacks family and earned her way to their trust. Unlike Skloot who worked for all of the information she gathered about the Lacks family, the media and the scientific community disregarded the Lacks family and took advantage of Henrietta’s cells without …show more content…
Stanley Gartler is a geneticist who discovers that HeLa cells have contaminated seventeen of the most common cell cultures. Gartler found “a rare genetic marker called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase-A (G6PD-A)” (112). G6PD-A is almost exclusively present in African Americans. Some of the cultures are from Caucasian people, so Gartler concludes that the HeLa cells had contaminated all cultures. 21 years later, in 1972, Russian scientists claimed to have found a cancer virus in Russian patients. The US government had the cells transported to the Naval Biomedical Research Laboratory. There, scientists found the cells were not from Russian patients, but were HeLa cells from Henrietta Lacks. When Gartler announced HeLa cells were spreading, very few scientists believed him. Now that HeLa cells were being found in Russian patients, the media became increasingly interested. “Suddenly… the press was very interested in the woman behind those cells” said Skloot (128). In their articles, the press called her Helen Lane or Helen Larson. The people were interested in Helen. L and “rumors spread about the identity of this mysterious Helen L.” (128). People had theories about her, saying Helen L. was “Gey’s secretary, or maybe his mistress” (128). J. Douglas, a biologist at Brunel University, felt the need to set the record straight and correctly identify

Related Documents