Polio Vaccine, Hela Developed From Cells of a Black Woman
Henrietta and David Lacks
Henrietta Lacks' Contribution to Science History
This is different than the usual tribute to Blacks for Black History Month. This little known bit of history will take the reader aback, because it is scarcely talked or written about, but is one of the greatest scientific contributions in medical history.
Henrietta Lacks contributed, in a chain of events that would forever change medical history, a preventative cure for an ominous debilitating disease, that effected millions, all without her knowledge.
On February 1, 1951, days after a march by 10,000 people in New York for a cure for polio, Mrs. Lacks sought out medical attention due to a vaginal discharge at John Hopkins Hospital. Unfortunately, the news was not good, and she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. After treatment she died on October 4, 1951.
- Henrietta Lacks and the HeLa Cells
Her family and scientists are probably the only ones that know the name of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman. Shes done so much for cancer and other research. Mrs. Lacks died at the age of 31 in 1951 at the...
Henrietta Lacks Legacy
Unbeknownst to Mrs. Lacks, a tobacco farmer, from Halifax County Virginia, cells were removed from her body before her death without her knowledge or consent, during a routine biopsy. Scientist noticed that the Lacks cells did something they've never seen before, they could be kept alive and grow!
Henrietta's cells were given the name HeLa using the first two letters of her first and last name. In 1954, three years after Mrs. Lacks demise the HeLa cells were used by Jonas Salk to develop a vaccine for polio.
Afterwards, demand for the HeLa cells grew, and were put into mass production. Traveled the world and even into space, so basically she's the first black and woman to make the trip. This was done in an unmanned satellite to see whether human tissues could survive zero gravity.
Over a decade has passed and Henrietta Lacks cells are still alive, and still being used in research for cancer, AIDS, gene mapping and the effects of radiation and toxic substances on humans. The HeLa cells assisted chemist in research to test human sensitivity to tape, cosmetics, glue and many other products.
- 1996 Moorhouse College, in Atlanta, Georgia recognized the Mrs. Henrietta Lacks' family, one husband and four children, for her continuing contribution to science.
- 1997 A documentary aired spotlighting Mrs. Lacks contribution to science entitled "Modern Times: The way of All Flesh", which won the Best Science and Nature Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival, in 1998.
- Since the 1950s numerous articles, in newspapers, magazines and scientific journals have been published. Along with books and academic publications.
- The Lacks family has been honored at the Smithsonian Institute.
- 2001 the National Foundation for Cancer Research announced a press release honoring "the late Henrietta Lacks for the contributions made to cancer research and modern medicine" on September 14 (the date was changed due to the horrific events of 9/11).
Henrietta Lacks, who died at age 31, whose ancestors were slaves that worked the tobacco fields of Virgina. Daughter of a railroad brakeman and one of ten children. Who would have known she would be in possession of life giving cells that grow outside the body and continue to do so to this day?
Despite the inconsideration and lack of patient doctor confidentiality, in removing the cells, who would have guessed that the body of a woman of thirty-one year old black woman would hold the key to prevent the spread of polio?
This tobacco farming black, wife and mother, in death, saved the lives and limbs of so many people for over a half a century. My personal thanks to Mrs. Henrietta Lacks and her family for her distinguished contribution to mankind.
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