Hela Cells

Hela cells are an often overlooked piece of history priceless to science and medical research. They were first discovered sixty-seven years ago. Hela cells are simply generations of cells taken from one person to use in scientific research. The cells are said to be immortal, allowing them to play a huge role in medical research.


Hela cells were first discovered in 1951. They were taken from Henrietta Lacks who died of terminal cancer. George Gey (the man who discovered Hela cells) took them from Mrs. Lack without consent not knowing how invaluable to science they would become. The discovery was made in Maryland.


Henrietta Lacks was an African American born in Roanoke,Virginia in 1920. Her mother died after giving birth to her eleventh child. Henrietta was then sent to live with her grandfather in Clover, Virginia. She married young and had her first child at the age of fourteen. She later died of terminal cancer not knowing how important her cells would become.


Without Henrietta Lacks, many vaccines such as the Polio vaccine would not have been developed. Over three hundred tons of Hela cells have been created. The cell count has greatly exceeded Henrietta's original body cell count.


The man (George Grey) who discovered the cells did not patent them and donated them to any scientist who needed them. Over 10,000 medical patents have been created using Hela

cells as a base for its design. Hela cells are still being used by scientists today helping to expand modern medicine.


Many scientists followed Gey’s example by not patenting Hela cells. Jonas Salk for example did not patent the polio vaccine losing his opportunity to make millions of dollars. Henrietta Lacks probably would have wanted this. It was a noble thing to do.


Hela cells have been used to explore the complex processes involved in the growth, differentiation, and death of cells which are processes that show a vast array of human diseases. Hela cells have also served as the foundation for developing modern vaccines, understanding viruses and other infectious agents, and creating medical operations such as In-Vitro fertilization.


Without Hela cells, we would not have many of the vaccines we have today. We should honor Henrietta Lacks’ memory by helping humanity to strive for greatness. Flu season is here, so next time you get vaccinated, thank Henrietta Lacks.



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2018

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