why was Henrietta Lacks contribution to science? why was she so important?

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  • 5 years ago
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    She didn't really *contribute* anything - and that in and of itself is significant.

    When Henrietta Lacks was treated for cervical cancer in 1951, her doctor took a biopsy of the tumor. The cells isolated from this tumor were the start of the first cell line - cells that could be kept alive in a petri dish indefinitely. These cells (known as HeLa cells) were grown and distributed to many different researchers, where they were the go-to cells for research for decades (and are still used today). Over 60,000 research projects have been carried out using HeLa cells in one capacity or another. Even though we have a lot of other cell lines in use today, HeLa is still one of the most influential.

    So, back to my first statement. Henrietta Lacks didn't really contribute anything, because the cells were used without her consent. They were *taken* from her. She was never given the chance to donate cells, nor was she given any real recognition until recently (she died a few months after the cells were taken). A good deal of money was made from the manufacture and sale of her cells for research purposes, none of which went to her family. Her medical records were also made public, again without consent of her family. These have all figured very heavily in discussions regarding patient rights and research ethics.

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  • 5 years ago

    Her contribution was unknown to her - she died before her story became significant.

    A doctor researching cancer took cells from her tumor (in one of her ovaries, I believe) and was able to get the cells of the tumor to continue dividing (replicating) in the laboratory. This was a breakthrough and gave, and still gives, I believe, an unending supply of identical cells for use in cancer research.

    While this supply of identical cells over the years has proven extremely valuable, her story became widespread when concerns arose about the ethics of taking cells from someone without their knowledge, and profiting from their sale. Her family was never told, while her "cell line" was sold many times over the years.

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