Author Topic: The Immortal Life of "Henrietta Lacks"  (Read 2966 times)

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Offline heretik

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The Immortal Life of "Henrietta Lacks"
« on: December 04, 2011, 02:01:12 PM »
I found this story very interesting for the scientific importance of immortal cells and the legal ramifications of discarded cells ("This issue and Mrs. Lacks' situation was brought up in the Supreme Court of California case of Moore v. Regents of the University of California. The court ruled that a person's discarded tissue and cells are not their property and can be commercialized.")
My problem is with when and if Mrs Lacks knew they were taking her cells. I say taking because it appears in this particular story that the doctors and researchers were asking Mrs Lacks to come in for future follow up appointments with the hidden additional purpose of extracting more cancerous cells for research. They were not communicating with her.
It is unethical to not explain to the patient that their cells that would normally be discarded and never used for any purpose are valuable for future tests and monetarily could have immense value. ... tta-lacks/
How Rebecca Skloot built The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

About The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.
Soon to be made into an HBO movie by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball, this New York Times bestseller takes readers on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers filled with HeLa cells, from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia, to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. It’s a story inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we’re made of.

In scientific research
 The cells from Henrietta's tumor were given to researcher George Gey, who "discovered that [Henrietta's] cells did something they'd never seen before: They could be kept alive and grow."[13] Before Henrietta, the cells would only survive for a few days. Scientists spent more time trying to keep the cells alive than performing actual research on the cells. Some cells in Lacks's tissue sample behaved differently than others. George Gey was able to isolate one specific cell, multiply it, and start a cell line. Gey named the sample "HeLa", after the initial letters of Henrietta Lacks' name, to protect her identity. As the first human cells grown in a lab that were "immortal" (did not die after a few cell divisions), they could then be used for conducting many experiments. This represented an enormous boon to medical and biological research.[1]

As reporter Michael Rogers stated, the growth of HeLa by a researcher at the hospital helped answer the demands of the 10,000 who marched for a cure to polio just shortly before Lacks' death. By 1954, HeLa was being used by Jonas Salk to develop a vaccine for polio.[1][11] To test Salk's new vaccine, the cells were quickly put into mass production in the first-ever cell production factory.[14]

Demand for the HeLa cells quickly grew. Since they were put into mass production, Henrietta's cells have been mailed to scientists around the globe for "research into cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation and toxic substances, gene mapping, and countless other scientific pursuits".[11] HeLa cells have been used to test human sensitivity to tape, glue, cosmetics, and many other products.[1] Scientists have grown some 20 tons of her cells.[1][15]

Doctors still have not discovered the reason for HeLa cells' unique vigor, but suspect that it is due to altered telomerase function. There are almost 11,000 patents involving HeLa cells.[1]

In the early 1970s, the family started getting calls from researchers who wanted blood samples from them to learn the family's genetics (eye colours, hair colours, and genetic connections). The family wondered why and this is when they learned about the removal of Henrietta's cells. No one else in the family had the traits that made her cells unique.[1]

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For other uses, see Hela (disambiguation).
Dividing HeLa cells as seen by scanning electron microscopy

A HeLa cell (also Hela or hela cell) is a cell type in an immortal cell line used in scientific research. It is the oldest and most commonly used human cell line.[1] The line was derived from cervical cancer cells taken on February 8, 1951[2] from Henrietta Lacks, a patient who eventually died of her cancer on October 4, 1951. The cell line was found to be remarkably durable and prolific as illustrated by its contamination of many other cell lines used in research.[3][4]

George Otto Gey and Henrietta Lacks
HeLa cells stained with Hoechst 33258

The cells were propagated by George Otto Gey shortly before Lacks died in 1951. This was the first human cell line to prove successful in vitro, which was a scientific achievement with profound future benefit to medical research. Gey freely donated both the cells and the tools and processes his lab developed to any scientist requesting them, simply for the benefit of science. Neither Lacks nor her family gave Gey permission to harvest the cells, but, at that time, permission was neither required nor customarily sought.[5] The cells were later commercialized, although never patented in their original form. Then, as now, there was no requirement to inform a patient, or their relatives, about such matters because discarded material, or material obtained during surgery, diagnosis, or therapy, was the property of the physician and/or medical institution. This issue and Mrs. Lacks' situation was brought up in the Supreme Court of California case of Moore v. Regents of the University of California. The court ruled that a person's discarded tissue and cells are not their property and can be commercialized.[6]

At first, the cell line was said to be named after a "Helen Lane" or "Helen Larson", in order to preserve Lacks' anonymity. Despite this attempt, her real name was used by the press within a few years of her death. These cells are treated as cancer cells, as they are descended from a biopsy taken from a visible lesion on the cervix as part of Mrs. Lacks' diagnosis of cancer. A debate still continues on the classification of the cells.[citation needed]

HeLa cells are termed "immortal" in that they can divide an unlimited number of times in a laboratory cell culture plate as long as fundamental cell survival conditions are met (i.e. being maintained and sustained in a suitable environment). There are many strains of HeLa cells as they continue to evolve by being grown in cell cultures, but all HeLa cells are descended from the same tumor cells removed from Mrs. Lacks. It has been estimated that the total number of HeLa cells that have been propagated in cell culture far exceeds the total number of cells that were in Henrietta Lacks' body.[7]
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »

Offline cmack

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Re: The Immortal Life of "Henrietta Lacks"
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2011, 04:27:11 PM »
Quote from: "heretik"
The court ruled that a person's discarded tissue and cells are not their property and can be commercialized.

I would hate to know that my cells were being grown commercially in a lab somewhere. With all that DNA testing can reveal about a person, I think this is a huge invasion of privacy. The court got it wrong.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »