Henrietta Lacks: The Story Behind The Hela Cells

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The story of Henrietta Lacks is truly a unique story, grounded in family, hardship and scientific discovery. The story behind the “HeLa” cells and the family behind the woman who had “immortal cells” is very dramatic. Henrietta Lacks, a thirty-one year old black woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer that rapidly spreads. Stricken by poverty, Lacks family is unable to financially support her in treatment. The cancer soon overtakes Lacks body, and she dies, leaving behind her husband and five children. Before losing her battle, scientist George Gey and the doctors at John Hopkins, removed DNA and tissue samples, later known as “HeLa,” from Lacks body without her knowledge to be cultured and researched.
As her cells were being researched, the “HeLa” cells began to grow at an amazingly fast rate. Through these tests, Gey and his team discovered and realized that they had in fact just made a historical breakthrough in the medical technology world. For years scientists had been trying to keep human cells alive to run experiments and
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The Lacks family found out when a researcher from the National Cancer Institute came and interacted with Deborah Lacks by accident and eventually figured out Deborah was related to Henrietta. The reporter told Deborah everything and this is when the word got out. Lacks’s cells were considered to be “immortal” and her cells since became a massive discovery and profit for the medical industry and George Gey without the family even knowing or receiving any financial benefits. After the Lacks had finally found this information out, it was particularly bad for their family. To start, the family still thought that Henrietta was still alive and in the labs still, and also others were profiting from their mother 's cells while they lived in poverty and could not even afford to meet with a

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