Henrietta Lacks (Aug 1, 1920 – Oct 4, 1951): The Woman and Her Immortal Cells

  • OS Michael


The most widely used human cancer cell line was obtained from a young woman, Herietta Lacks (Aug 01, 1920 – Oct 04, 1951), who was diagnosed with malignant cervical cancer at John’s Hopkins. Despite surgery and radiotherapy she died 8 months after the diagnosis was made. Her tissue was harvested during surgery and sent to pathology where they showed unique growth characteristics. They provided, for the first time, human cancer cells that grew successfully outside the body without ageing. The cells became the most widely used cells in human cancer research. These cells where called HeLa cells and their use changed oncology in an unforgettable way. These cells were used in the development of Salk polio vaccines. They have been used in almost every other biomedical specialty where cell cultures are
performed, in every country of the World. This is a short history of a poor black woman who died at a young age, unrecognized, but whose cells attained immortality. The benefits of her cells to mankind are unquantifiable, and to date the reason why her cells attained immortality remains unknown.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1597-1627