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article imageHenrietta Lack's immortal life: one woman, many medical miracles

By Alexandra Christopoulos     Oct 4, 2011 in Science
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but in the medical community, she is commonly known as HeLa. At 30, Lacks was diagnosed was cervical cancer and died months later, in 1951. Her cells, however, became (and still are) one of the most important medical tools.
Oct 4 officially marks the 60th anniversary of her death. While being treated for cancer, doctors took samples of Lacks' cells without her knowledge or permission. Today, those cells (named HeLa) are still alive.
Research on them led to breakthroughs in just about everything: from the development of the polio vaccine, as well as drugs for treating other diseases, such as leukemia, influenza, herpes hemophilia and Parkinson's.
Her cell samples also led to important advances like IVF, gene mapping and cloning. At least five Nobel Prizes, over the past 10 years alone, have been awarded for research using HeLa cells.
More than half a century later, Ms. Lack's memory might have soon been forgotten, until journalist and prize winning author, Rebecca Skloot, reminded of her story. In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Skloot documents the life of the Virginia born woman, who was also a descendent of freed slaves.
It is being rumoured the book will turn into a movie , possibly sometime next year.
Henrietta's cells continue to be bought and sold by millions to this day, and are among the most widely used worldwide. Her body is said to be in unmarked grave, in Clover, Virginia, while members of her family today struggle to pay for health insurance.
More about henrietta lacks, hela cells, Cancer cells, Medical research, John Hopkins University
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