Investigate Henrietta Lacks. Why is she an important person in the history of biology?

Investigate Henrietta Lacks. Why is she an important person in the history of biology and what was her contribution to medical science?

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  • 8 years ago
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    You're in luck! I actually wrote a paper about this a couple semester's ago. I did in fact write this myself.

    Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

    1. Introduction

    The topic of this paper is a review of the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. This book discusses the origin and accomplishments of the HeLa cell line, named after Henrietta Lacks. I have selected this topic because I think HeLa cells in some way have affected every living person on the planet and the circumstances surrounding their initial procurement, development and subsequent monetization have significant political, economic, social and ideological impacts on our society. The discussion of political, economic, social and ideological impacts on society can be referred to as the Williams Conceptualization Model or PIES. This theoretical concept defines a framework from which it is understood that politics, economics, social/culture are all functions that are designed to serve the prevailing ideology. This framework works when viewed within the corresponding framework of a structural analysis. A structural analysis in this case states that our society is based on three levels, the individual or micro, the systemic or macro and the ideological or meso. This type of structural analysis says that society follows a set of agreed upon or pre-determined ideologies and that these ideologies are carried out or realized by systems that enforce the ideologies and the actual individuals and enforcers on the ground level are called functionaries. For example, using the health care industry as an analogy, we can say that that the overriding ideology that allows this industry to exist is the notion that Americans want, or rely on, others to keep them healthy. The systems that facilitate and perpetuate the existing ideology are insurance companies like MetLife, Technology companies like GE and health care companies like HCA. The micro level, or functionaries, consists of patients who directly use or benefit from these systems and doctors or nurses who directly deliver services under the supervision of the presiding system.

    2. Pertinent Legal and Historical Background

    A major theme in this book concerns the development of the HeLa cell line and its use in the scientific community. The book discusses the cells origins as samples of cancerous tissues were removed from Henrietta’s cervix during the initial diagnosis and before the treatment of the cancer. These cells were grown in a lab by Dr. George Gey, the attending physician and researcher, and eventually labeled “HeLa” cells after Mrs. Lacks' name. HeLa cells were the first cells that were proven to be reproducible. When it was proven that HeLa cells could survive packaging and shipping, the first cells proven to do so, HeLa factories were setup around the world under the supervision of Dr. Gey. HeLa studies contributed to many important scientific discoveries, such as the development of the polio vaccine and of medicines used to treat Parkinson's disease and cancer. HeLa cells have even been sent into space for study and been involved in nuclear testing. Over 50 million tons of these cells have been grown and studied. “HeLa has helped build thousands of careers, not to mention more than 60,000 scientific studies, with nearly 10 more being published every day, revealing the secrets of everything from aging and cancer to mosquito mating and the cellular effects of working in sewers” (Margonelli, 2010). There is also the story of HeLa cells having a dubious past as well. HeLa cells were involved in what was dubbed the “HeLa Bomb”, where HeLa cells were found to contaminate most isolated human cell lines in existence in Russia and the United States. “In 1966 it became clear that HeLa had contaminated hundreds of cell lines, destroying research as far away as Russia” (Margonelli, 2010). The recognition that most cell lines that were being used for research were actually contaminated rendered millions of dollars of research, findings and even patents useless. The racial connotation at the time was that black cells contaminated white cells, based on the one-drop rule at the time concerning federal racial classification. “By 1925, almost every state had some form of a one-drop law on the books. These were the laws that empowered bureaucrats to insistently label families of mixed ancestry as black, despite the actual percentages” (Wright, 1994).

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  • 8 years ago

    Henrietta Lacks (August 1, 1920 – October 4, 1951 (sometimes erroneously called Henrietta Lakes, Helen Lane or Helen Larson) was an African-American woman who was the unwitting source of cells from her cancerous tumor, which were cultured by George Otto Gey to create an immortal cell line for medical research. This is now known as the HeLa cell line.

    he cells from Henrietta's tumor were given to researcher George Gey, who "discovered that [Henrietta's] cells did something they'd never seen before: They could be kept alive and grow. Before this, cells cultured from other cells would only survive for a few days. Scientists spent more time trying to keep the cells alive than performing actual research on the cells but some cells from Lacks's tumor sample behaved differently than others. George Gey was able to isolate one specific cell, multiply it, and start a cell line. Gey named the sample HeLa, after the initial letters of Henrietta Lacks' name. As the first human cells grown in a lab that were "immortal" (they not die after a few cell divisions), they could be used for conducting many experiments. This represented an enormous boon to medical and biological research

    Demand for the HeLa cells quickly grew. Since they were put into mass production, Henrietta's cells have been mailed to scientists around the globe for "research into cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation and toxic substances, gene mapping, and countless other scientific pursuits". HeLa cells have been used to test human sensitivity to tape, glue, cosmetics, and many other products Scientists have grown some 20 tons of her cells. and there are almost 11,000 patents involving HeLa cells.

    • btw her family didn't get money after the discovery sadly even tho she didn't sign anything as an agreement before the discovery.

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