Medical Figure. Now considered one of the unsung heroes of medical research, Henrietta Lacks was the involuntary donor of cells from her cancerous cervix, which were cultured by Dr. George Gey at the Johns Hopkins University medical center. Through his work with these cells, Gey established a cell line for medical research, which is now known as the "HeLa" cell line. A native of Roanoke, Virginia, Henrietta moved to Turner's Station, Maryland, near Baltimore, in 1943. After experiencing some vaginal bleeding, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and was admitted to the Johns Hopkins University hospital. Her cancerous tissue was exceptionally aggressive and Henrietta died within a few months of the beginning of her treatment. Her biopsied cells were the first human culture to survive beyond a 50th generation, are still growing, have been described as "immortal," and can now be found in laboratories world-wide. Her cells were named "HeLa" after the first letters in her first and last names and have been used in a large number of medical experiments, contributing greatly to the understanding of disease processes such as polio. There has been controversy, however, concerning the use of her cells without her permission and without the knowledge of her family. Her real name was kept a secret for years, but was finally released, giving her recognition as a contributor to medical research. Her case is thought to represent an example of "devolution," in which a complex multicellular organism has devolved into a simple, self-replicating, single-cell organism. It may also represent the first documented creation of a new species. She is the subject of "A Conspiracy of Cells: One Woman's Immortal Legacy and the Medical Scandal it Caused,"(1986) and "Modern Times: The Way of the Flesh," a 1997 BBC documentary. Two important bioethical issues that pertain to her case are that of patients' rights and informed consent, as well as what, if anything, is morally or legally due to a person or their heirs if something of commercial value is developed from their tissue. A book has also been published called, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." Henrietta Lacks now has a headstone that was donated by Dr. Roland Pattillo of Morehouse School of Medicine after he read this book.
Bio by: Warrick L. Barrett
IN LOVING MEMORY OF A PHENOMENAL WOMAN, WIFE, AND MOTHER WHO TOUCHED THE LIVES OF MANY. HERE LIES HENRIETTA LACKS (HELA). HER IMMORTAL CELLS WILL CONTINUE TO HELP MANKIND FOREVER.
ETERNAL LOVE AND ADMIRATION, FROM YOUR FAMILY
Burial coordinates are approximate. The GPS coordinates reference a historical marker located near the gravesite.
1915–2002 (m. 1940)
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