Henrietta Lacks is the woman behind HeLa. HeLa is the contribution of Henrietta’s cells to scientific research. She was a young mother of 5 who sadly died of cervical cancer at the age of 31. The John Hopkins website states, prior to her death, her cells were knowingly tested and found to reproduce indefinitely. This finding has contributed to decades of research and medical breakthroughs. Her cells were used for research on the effects of zero gravity in outer space and the development of the polio vaccine, to the study of leukemia, the AIDS virus and cancer worldwide. It was only through rumors that her family initially knew of her input into the development of science.
After the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloots was published, John Hopkins made the decision to share the details of HeLa with Henrietta’s family. In the time that her cells were being tested for research, there weren’t any policies in place that required the hospital to relay information to the families or the research volunteers. The policies have since been updated with consideration to all parties involved. Her story has been told verbally, in a book, and in film.
Oprah Winfrey starred in the book to film, as Deborah, the daughter of Henrietta who refused to give up the fight to take ownership of her mother’s legacy and share that truth. Click the link to get additional information on how you can watch the movie https://henriettalackshbo.com/
As people, we fight daily to understand how we can leave an imprint on the world. Henrietta is evidence that we all have a level of influence that has enough power to enhance life.
Through a collaboration between the Lack family and John Hopkins, htere are symposiums, scholarships, and awards given in her honor.
She is the gift that keeps giving.
The information in this article is a compilation of data from:
Butanis, B. (2018). The Legacy of Henrietta Lacks. [online] Hopkinsmedicine.org. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/henriettalacks/ [Accessed 27 May 2018].
“Henrietta Lacks.” Biography.com. January 19, 2018. Accessed May 27, 2018. https://www.biography.com/people/henrietta-lacks-21366671.
Henriettalackshbo.com. (2018). HBO. [online] Available at: https://henriettalackshbo.com/ [Accessed 27 May 2018].
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Produced by Oprah Winfrey, Carla Cardini, Peter Macdissi, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Alan Ball, and Rebecca Skloot. By Peter Landesman and Alexander Woo. Directed by George C. Wolfe. Performed by Oprah Winfrey. United States: Home Box Office, 2017. HBO.