The Legacy of Henrietta Lacks

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Back in the year 1951, an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks went through radiation treatment for cervical cancer that she had been struggling with for some time. She received treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital, located in Baltimore. ( continue reading below ).

 

 

During this treatment process, her surgeon went ahead and removed several pieces of tissue from her cervix. However, Henrietta Lacks was not aware of this; these pieces were sent to a laboratory for examination.

It was from those pieces the research scientists at Hopkins were using for medical research. For those experiments, they are using different types of tissues that they'd; remove from other patients. After numerous unsuccessful attempts, the scientists at Hopkins were finally able to succeed along with the cancer cells of Henrietta Lacks.

That’s where they got to know that the cancer cells of Henrietta Lacks don’t merely grow.

Henrietta died eight months after the diagnosis. However, the cells of Henrietta Lacks can be found inside thousands of research labs in every corner of the world. These cells are called HeLA. The cells are some of the essential tools that you'll find in medicine. They have contributed towards numerous breakthroughs within the medical industry. Medical research scientists have been able to get a better understanding of the treatment of diseases. Moreover, they have created a multi-billion industry as well.
When you take a look at the medical industry, you will notice that Henrietta Lacks cells are the most widely used within the biomedical industry. These cells have been bused to develop chemotherapy, polio vaccine, vitro fertilization and even cloning. Along with that, many other advancements have been made with the help and support offered by Henrietta Lacks.

Henrietta Lacks cells were removed in 1951, her family members and immediate relatives were not notified untill 1973. This left family members with numerous unanswered questions.  One being,  How was the removeal of her cervic tissue allowed without Henrietta's or a family  members concent.

People all over world are now familiar with the legacy of Henrietta Lacks when “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" was published in 2010 by Rebecca Skloot.

On the year 1951, doctors who removed tissues from Henrietta Lacks didn’t have a clear understanding how this unauthorizes removal would impatc the medical industry . All they wanted is to get hold of tissues that they will be able to use for their research purposes. These tissues have come a long way since then 1951. Up till this day, doctors and research scientists have a clear understanding of the scientific value of those tissues removed.

In today’s world, You'll find more ethical methods of collecting tissues. That’s because this cell collection method was subjected to numerous controversies back in history.

Doctors and research scientists are preserving millions of tissue samples per year. These tissue samples lead them to the development of new treatments and discoveries. In some of the instances, they even help to develop lucrative. However, the increase of such researches have given life to numerous theoretical questions. One of the most prominent hypothetical questions is understanding whether we have the right to take control over what would happen to the tissues that were made form our bodies. On the other hand, people are concerned. There's no clear understanding how to come up with an agreement determining what methods will be followed and what experiments will be done with the tissues removed.

Even though Henrietta Lacks died more than six decades ago, she has left the entire world behind a powerful legacy. This legacy is continuing to push bioethics, sciences, and policies into new frontiers and beyond.
If you are interested in learning more about the legacy of Henrietta Lacks, you are strongly encouraged to  read  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot or watch the Movie The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2017)

 

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