Thursday, February 4, 2016

Who's Henrietta Lacks?

Henrietta Lacks is a woman that helped advance medicine, and she doesn’t even know it. Henrietta was a poor woman of color who grew up in the 50s. She was a mother of five and a very tough woman. She didn’t know much about medicine, and was always denying medical treatment. She many complications with her pregnancies, but she never went to the doctor to get the issues fixed or checked out. Until one day she was telling her closest friends that she was in pain and wasn’t feeling well. Once she went to the doctors they found a tumor on her cervix. After many tests, it was said that she had stage I cervical cancer.

The top gynecologist, Richard Wesley TeLinde, was going to operate. He treated all of his patients with aggressive treatments. He believed that any cancer untreated was going to become deadly. He had an idea about trying to grow her cancer cells with normal cells so that he could prove that his aggressive treatment wasn’t extreme and that it was necessary. He asked his friend George Gey who grew cells (unsuccessfully) if he would be willing to help him. Gey was overexcited to help because maybe this would be the time that the cells would grow.

Henrietta was scheduled for surgery to try and get rid of the tumor. When she was under the doctor took two pieces of her cervix and sent it to the lab to see if the cells would grow, and THEY DID. These cells were not only growing, they were growing rapidly. Tubes and tubes of her cells were being collected; nothing could stop these cells from growing. Henrietta didn’t know though, she died only months later because the cancer took over all of her major organs.

Henrietta Lacks cells (HeLa Cells) were the first immortal human cells. These cells are still growing and being used today in many different forms of research. These cells are not only used in cancer research they are also used to study viruses, bacteria, and proteins.


Posted by Caitlyn Cordaro (1)


  1. I have never heard about HeLa cells and Henrietta Lacks until the past week.
    The way the Dr. took the sample was non ethical(without her permission) though the discovery of HeLa cells created revolution in medicine.
    They hid the source of these cells for 20 years and made billions of money.
    It is a controversy topic.
    Commented by Mohammed Saleh

  2. I actually read a book about HeLa cells, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. This book talked about Henrietta Lacks, her family background and the many unethical issues surrounding this controversy. These HeLa cells contributed immensely to the scientific research, however, the family members’ privacy was violated immensely, as researchers took genetic information without permission, and the compensation they never received for any of Henrietta’s contribution.
    I was very excited about this post, as HeLa cells have always been an interest of mine, and I would recommend this book as it shows the history of these cells and the fight to get legal action for a more ethical scientific society.

    Yustina Kang (Group 2)

    1. The information that I got about HeLa cells was from The Immortal Life! I think that I might have to pick it up and read it because this is such a fascinating topic. I think that the ethics behind the situation was incredibly important to the story. I think that keeping it a secret was so wrong, and I think that her family should be compensated for what they took from her. Since they took cells for research and made a lot of money for the different things that they cured.

      Caitlyn Cordaro

  3. The implications of an "immortal" cell are huge. If scientists could figure out how to replicate the effects of her cells it could huge, but they would have to find out where the mutation is and why her cells are so special. I don't know if we will ever be able to control the processes that it undergoes though. I remember my biology teacher once telling us about these cells and I did not believe him at first. Cool topic.

    Nick Michienzi

  4. Thanks Nick!
    This topic is really interesting because of how long these cells have been replicating. I think that it is honestly amazing, many other cells have been found to be immortal and are also used in research. I think that maybe if they start to compare these cells it may become easier to find out why they are still replicating. It is just so hard to tell what is actually happening to these cells because they are always mutating.

    Caitlyn Cordaro