The #tbt this week/mth goes to Henrietta Lacks (born in 1920 in Virigina USA. dies of cancer (?) 1951) , who's cells were the first ever immortalized cell line. This was done without her consent or knowledge. #readaboutit
In and around 1950/51, Henrietta Lacks (then 30/31 yrs old), a black woman , goes to Johns Hopkins, the only hospital in the area that treated black patients (they still had to be treated in a separate, negroward, of course) complaining of a "knot" in her womb. She is checked and tested and eventually diagnosed with cevical cancer.
During the first day of treatment, two samples are taken from Henrietta's cervix WITHOUT her permission or knowledge, and she is sent home after her treatment. Long story short: From these sample, the HeLa cell line was created.
Today, HeLa cells have been cut up, have multiplied, have been shared/given/sold/shipped around the world and continue to be used in research labs around the world. They have helped in prominent medical research, revolutionary discoveries, in vitro cancer research, have helped eradicate polio, " flew in early space shuttle missions and sat in nuclear test sites around the world. In the 50's, HeLa cells helped researchers understand the differences between cancerous and normal cells, and quickly became a standard laboratory tool for studying the effects of radiation, growing viruses and testing medications. HeLa is still one of the most widely used cell lines." People actually made money with it and from it.
The lacks family only found out about 2 decades after the theft of their matriarch's cells. They were being used and shared and multiplied for research, without anyone's permission in the Lacks family.
So... Here's to Henrietta, who continues to save lives, whatever their skin tone ('cus cancer and them don't care what you look like). Xo