Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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    An Immortal Woman who Revolutionized the Medical World

    Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951) was an African-American woman whose cancer cells are the source of the world’s first immortalized human cell line, HeLa, capable which is capable of reproducing continuously under particular conditions. Today, HeLa cells continue to be an indispensable tool in medical research but how were they formed?
    In 1951, Henrietta was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which led to a biopsy. The cancer cells were extracted from her biopsy sample and cultured by cell biologist George Otto Gey at John Hopkins Hospital, which led to discovering the HeLa cell line.
    These cells were observed to be found unusual as they had an incredibly high rate of division and were the only cells to be found capable of multiple divisions without dying which is why they were termed as “immortal.” The discovery of HeLa cells invited many controversies along with massive medical breakthroughs, including the development of vaccines for the Human Papilloma Virus and Poliovirus, cancer research, and recently the extensive study of the novel coronavirus.
    To this day, HeLa cells are used to analyze tissues in labs with mentions in over 100,000 scientific publications on topics ranging from genetics and infectious diseases to cancer and cell biology. With her cells being merited with three Nobel Prizes and leaving a lasting contribution in research and scientific discoveries, Henrietta Lacks continues to be remembered as the “Mother of Modern Medicine.”

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