Impact of HeLa


I've spent years staring at that photo, wondering what kind of life she led, what happened to her children, and what she'd think about cells from her cervix living on forever-- bought, sold, packaged, and shipped by the trillions to laboratories around the world. I've tried to imagine how she'd feel knowing that her cells went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to human cells in zero gravity, or that they helped with some of the most important advances in medicine: the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, pg. 2

Links and Resources

  • Cell! Cell!(SETI Institute)
    Live forever? Both cancer cells and stem cells can make a claim to immortality. Left unchecked, tumors will grow indefinitely. And stem cells offer the promise of non-stop rejuvenation.

  • Five Reasons Henrietta Lacks is the Most Important Woman in Medical History (Popular Science)
    In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, a poor woman with a middle-school education, made one of the greatest medical contributions ever. Her cells, taken from a cervical-cancer biopsy, became the first immortal human cell line—the cells reproduce infinitely in a lab. Although other immortal lines have since been established, Lacks’s “HeLa” cells are the standard in labs around the world. Together they outweigh 100 Empire State Buildings and could circle the equator three times. This month, PopSci contributor Rebecca Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, tells the story behind the woman who revolutionized modern medicine. Here, five reasons we should all thank Henrietta Lacks.

  • Growth of HeLa Cells (National University of Singapore)
    HeLa is one of the most well-known cell lines. It has the capability of growing both in suspension and as
    anchorage dependent. This application shows a convenient method for continuous harvesting of large
    numbers of HeLa cells.

  • Henrietta Everlasting: 1950s Cells Still Alive, Helping Science (Wired) January 2010.
    Lacks died later that year, but her cell line — known as HeLa — lives on. A new book by Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, examines the extraordinary impact of HeLa on science and the effects of that unchosen legacy on Lacks’ family. Here’s a look at a most eventful afterlife.