HeLa Cells

Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951) was a black tobacco farmer from Southern Virginia who got cervical cancer and died when she was 31. Before her death, a doctor treating her at Johns Hopkins, took a piece of her tumor without telling her because he realized that her cells, unlike everyone else’s, never died. These cells named HeLa after Henrietta Lacks, have been replicated millions of times to create an endless supply of “immortal cells.”

Before HeLa cells, scientists spent more time trying to keep cells alive than performing actual research on cells. In 1952, the worst year of the polio epidemic, Dr. Jonas Salk used HeLa cells to develop a vaccine for Polio. Other HeLa cells have been used as the basic cells that established the process of cloning and in vitro fertilization. HeLa cells were also used to determine that humans have 46 chromosomes and provided the basis for making several types of genetic diagnoses. HeLa cells have been used to repair DNA and have been used in Anti-cancer drugs.

Although pharmaceutical companies have made billions of dollars from replicating & selling HeLa cells, Henrietta’s family has never been compensated. It wasn’t until recently that they even knew her cells were being used. In 2010, Rebecca Skloot wrote the book: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” detailing her life. Oprah Winfrey in conjunction with HBO is developing a film project based on Skloot’s book. In 2013, a settlement with the family has given them some control over the use of HeLa cells, but still no financial reward.

Henrietta Lacks is arguably the most influential person in medicine that the world doesn’t even know.

By: Derik Mosley, Municipal Court Judge, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Judge Derek Mosley

Judge Derek Mosley

4 thoughts on “HeLa Cells

  1. D. Collins Post author -
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    For other uses, see Hela (disambiguation).
    Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951)

    HeLa cell /ˈhlɑː/, also Hela or hela cell, is a cell type in an immortal cell line used in scientific research. It is the oldest and most commonly used human cell line.[1] The line was derived from cervical cancer cells taken on February 8, 1951[2] from Henrietta Lacks, a patient who died of her cancer on October 4, 1951. The cell line was found to be remarkably durable and prolific — which has led to it contaminating many other cell lines used in research.[3][4]

    The cells from Lacks' tumor were taken without her knowledge or consent by researcher George Gey, who found that they could be kept alive.[5] 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 them, but some cells from Lacks' tumor sample behaved differently from 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. They were the first human cells grown in a lab that were "immortal," meaning that they do not die after a few cell divisions, and they could be used for conducting many experiments. This represented an enormous boon to medical and biological research.[4]

    The stable growth of HeLa enabled a researcher at the University of Minnesota hospital to successfully grow poliovirus, enabling the development of a vaccine,[6] and by 1954, Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio using these cells.[4][7] To test Salk's new vaccine, the cells were put into mass production in the first-ever cell production factory.[8]

    In 1955, HeLa cells were the first human cells successfully cloned.[9]

    Demand for the HeLa cells quickly grew. Since they were put into mass production, Lacks' cells have been used by scientists around the globe for "research into cancerAIDS, the effects of radiation and toxic substances, gene mapping, and countless other scientific pursuits".[7] HeLa cells have been used to test human sensitivity to tape, glue, cosmetics, and many other products.[4] Scientists have grown some 20 tons of her cells,[4][10] and there are almost 11,000 patents involving HeLa cells.[4]

  2. Lionel Collins, Sr. -

    I think our society should think about why we are here. We are hear to support each other but to take advantage of a family who’ve family member have given a whole new meaning to life on earth is a disgrace to humanity. I believe America and the world should give the family the rewards that they truly deserve. Since the courts have given the family some control over her cells and their use, I believe it should have gone a whole lot further in ensuring the family received the rewards from any and all distributors using her cells for the benefit of healing human kind. Judge, please provide this family, my distant family, the financial rewards that they deserve.

    Lionel Collins, Sr.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest News


From Ruth Spillers | Whitley Collins Descendents | Feb 5…

Solo, group singing, instrumentals, comedy, ladies, families, children, men everybody,…

August 23, 2015:  Excerpt from Ruth Spillers Facebook post. Important…

View All

Upcoming Events

<< Nov 2018 >>
29 30 31 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 1 2