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Polio vaccine and other medical marvels courtesy of the "immortal" cells of Henrietta Lacks

The "Immortal" Henrietta Lacks
The "Immortal" Henrietta Lacks

Cures and vaccines to better benefit the human race are all practiced on the same guinea pig - human cells. But not just any human cells, they are in fact laboratory-grown human cells. These cells provide the vital clues about the ways cells work, and how they react to diseases and treatments. Known as "immortal cells", they can be grown forever, frozen for decades, divided and shared among other scientists. The beginning of the immortal cells began in 1951, from an unsuspecting donor; a young black woman named Henrietta Lacks.

Henrietta, a tobacco farmer from Virginia, was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 30 yrs old. She went to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, for treatment. Without her knowledge, a doctor there took a piece of her tumor and sent it to the scientists at the hospital. They had been trying unsuccessfully to grow tissues for years, but by some miracle, Henrietta's never died. Her cells were the first human cells to ever be grown in culture, thus starting the line of immortal cells that would forever change medical history. Henrietta's cells were the key to many medical marvels.

1.) The foundation in the development of the polio vaccine.
2.) Sent into space during the first missions to test zero gravity on cells.
3.) Gene mapping
4.) Cloning
5.) In vitro fertilization

Henrietta died within a few months after those cells were taken, unaware of how a part of her was making medical history. An unsung heroine who, whether with or without her knowledge, has given life to many in the existing human race.


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