February 20, 2017: Henrietta Lacks

henrietta_lacks_1920-1951

Henrietta Lacks has been in the news lately because Oprah is playing her daughter in the HBO film “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” along side Rose Byrne. Henrietta Lacks died from cancer in 1951. Tissue samples from her tumors were harvested without her permission but ended up leading to scientific breakthroughs. Her sample is now known as the HeLa immortal cell line used in contemporary biomedical research. These cells were used to develop the polio vaccine, research cancer and AIDS as well as current studies. According to wikipedia scientists have grown 0ver 20 tons of her cells and they are used in over 11,000 patents.  I’m sure the HBO film will cover topics like race, poverty and the use of patients cells for commercial purposes (leading to a bigger conversation about privacy and patients’ rights). The HBO film will premiere at 8pm on Saturday April 22.

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