The Immortal Legacies of Henrietta Lacks – Unearthing the Story behind the Pioneering HeLa Cells

Henrietta Lacks’ ‘Immortal’ Cells

Circa 2010

Researchers use human cells grown in the laboratory to study the complexities of cell function and test theories on the causes and treatments of disease. Cell lines that are needed by researchers can be \”immortal\”, meaning they can be grown indefinitely and frozen for years, or divided into batches to share among scientists. A scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland created the first immortal cell line in 1951 using a tissue sample from a young woman with cervical carcinoma. HeLa cells were quickly used in medical research, but their source remained unknown for many decades. Rebecca Skloot, a journalist, has written a new book called The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. She traces the origins of HeLa cells and Henrietta Lacks.


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