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Henrietta Lacks: The Unknown Woman Who Helped Save Modern Medicine

 
Face Palmer
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05/19/2017 08:22 AM

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Henrietta Lacks: The Unknown Woman Who Helped Save Modern Medicine
For Henrietta Lacks, her gift to the world was given without her consent, without her family’s permission, without attribution or compensation or acknowledgment for nearly half a century.

Without her, there would be no polio vaccine; there’d be fewer treatments for cancer; there’d be fewer medical treatments at al. And all it took was a group of powerful cancer cells too strong to die.


Henrietta was just 31 when cervical cancer took her life, leaving her five children without a mother. She was the daughter of tobacco farmers and grew up in Virginia, not too far removed from slaves in her own family tree. She married David “Day” Lacks, a cousin, after having two children with him (Lawrence, when she was 14, and Elsie when she was 18) and the family moved to Baltimore in 1941 so he could pursue work at the Bethlehem Steel plant there.

It was after the birth of her last child, Joseph, that Henrietta first fell ill. She reportedly went to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, one of the few in the region that would treat black patients, and told them she felt a “knot” in her womb. When she’d felt a similar discomfort earlier, her cousins told her not to worry about it, that she was likely pregnant, and in previous instances they were correct.

This time, however, there were complications with Joseph’s delivery and Henrietta suffered a severe hemorrhage. One doctor tested her for syphilis, which came back negative, so a second doctor, Howard Jones, took a biopsy of some cells from her cervix, leading to her diagnosis.

It was during her treatment for cancer that doctors removed some of the tumor and kept the cells in a lab. For years, doctors and researchers had been trying to get cells to replicate and stay alive for longer than a few hours outside their host but it had never been successful. Henrietta’s cells were different – they not only stayed alive, they kept replicating.

Henrietta died from her cancer in October 1951, having been admitted to the hospital for severe abdominal pain in August and never released after the cancer spread through her body.
This timeline shows the history of HeLa cells and their myriad uses in medical research and treatment, named for Henrietta Lacks. Tap to enlarge. Courtesy wired.com
What Lacks did for modern medicine

Meanwhile, a team of researchers, led by George Otto Grey, kept working with and cultivating the cells. Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells grown in culture inside a lab. Coded HeLa so as not to disclose their “donor,” the cells were shared with other research facilities.

The cells alone were tremendous for not dying shortly after being harvested, but they became the keystone of modern medicine in many ways. Without research based on HeLa cells, there would be no polio vaccine, no drug treatment for people with HIV and AIDS. There would be a shortage of cancer treatments.


The ability of HeLa cells to survive made research possible. Doctors could, for the first time, apply new and experimental treatments on cells and see what would happen. They could inject the cells with a new virus and run experiments. They could inject the cells with other carcinogens and monitor the response.

The cells have been hit with nearly every treatment and illness imaginable since they were harvested in 1951. The cells have been used so frequently, one researcher has said HeLa cells could wrap around the planet at least three times if placed end to end. Some 10,000 patents have been issued for treatments that began with HeLa cells.

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Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

The woman who is not pursued sets up the doctrine that pursuit is offensive to her sex, and wants to make it a felony. No genuinely attractive woman has any such desire. - H.L. Mencken, In Defense Of Women
beeches

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05/19/2017 08:33 AM

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Re: Henrietta Lacks: The Unknown Woman Who Helped Save Modern Medicine
she was used to create those sick vaccines


SHAME ON THEM
Beginnings! that which give shape and life to things that were once only possiblilities
PureSnow

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05/19/2017 08:35 AM

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Re: Henrietta Lacks: The Unknown Woman Who Helped Save Modern Medicine
TLDR - sorry, still think Oprah is a craptastic actress.
PureSnow
Face Palmer (OP)
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05/19/2017 08:44 AM

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Re: Henrietta Lacks: The Unknown Woman Who Helped Save Modern Medicine
TLDR - sorry, still think Oprah is a craptastic actress.
 Quoting: PureSnow


TLDR: Henrietta Lacks had some strange cancer cells that did not die in petri dishes, thus making way for a WIDE range of medical treatments. See quickchart here: [link to 1nx5t43j6ste3tb8av37h37y-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com (secure)]
"The world will soon wake up to the reality that everyone is broke and can collect nothing from the bankrupt, who are owed unlimited amounts by the insolvent, who are attempting to make late payments on a bank holiday in the wrong country, with an unacceptable currency, against defaulted collateral, of which nobody is sure who holds title."

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

The woman who is not pursued sets up the doctrine that pursuit is offensive to her sex, and wants to make it a felony. No genuinely attractive woman has any such desire. - H.L. Mencken, In Defense Of Women
Face Palmer (OP)
Educating GLP, One tard at a time

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05/19/2017 09:09 AM

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Re: Henrietta Lacks: The Unknown Woman Who Helped Save Modern Medicine
bump
"The world will soon wake up to the reality that everyone is broke and can collect nothing from the bankrupt, who are owed unlimited amounts by the insolvent, who are attempting to make late payments on a bank holiday in the wrong country, with an unacceptable currency, against defaulted collateral, of which nobody is sure who holds title."

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

The woman who is not pursued sets up the doctrine that pursuit is offensive to her sex, and wants to make it a felony. No genuinely attractive woman has any such desire. - H.L. Mencken, In Defense Of Women
TheToolMan
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05/19/2017 09:56 AM

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Re: Henrietta Lacks: The Unknown Woman Who Helped Save Modern Medicine
5stargif
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Face Palmer (OP)
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05/19/2017 02:00 PM

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Re: Henrietta Lacks: The Unknown Woman Who Helped Save Modern Medicine
bump
"The world will soon wake up to the reality that everyone is broke and can collect nothing from the bankrupt, who are owed unlimited amounts by the insolvent, who are attempting to make late payments on a bank holiday in the wrong country, with an unacceptable currency, against defaulted collateral, of which nobody is sure who holds title."

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

The woman who is not pursued sets up the doctrine that pursuit is offensive to her sex, and wants to make it a felony. No genuinely attractive woman has any such desire. - H.L. Mencken, In Defense Of Women
Anonymous Coward
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05/19/2017 02:11 PM
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Re: Henrietta Lacks: The Unknown Woman Who Helped Save Modern Medicine
TLDR - sorry, still think Oprah is a craptastic actress.
 Quoting: PureSnow


TLDR: Henrietta Lacks had some strange cancer cells that did not die in petri dishes, thus making way for a WIDE range of medical treatments. See quickchart here: [link to 1nx5t43j6ste3tb8av37h37y-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com (secure)]
 Quoting: Face Palmer


She was really good at math too! Or am I getting my phony black history movies confused?


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