Celebrating Black History Month: Henrietta Lacks

By Rachel Spears – Political Editor

Henrietta Lacks


Henrietta Lacks was born in Virginia in 1920. Shortly after giving birth to her fifth child in 1950, she was diagnosed with a malignant cervical cancer. She underwent radium treatment and during that time, her doctor harvested cells from the tumor without her knowledge. These immortal cells would double in 20-24 hours while other human cells died before their use. Her family was only informed of Lacks’ contribution to medical research in the 1970s, more than 20 years after they were taken. Her HeLa cells, named for the first two letters of her first and last name, are still used for medical research today. Without them, many vaccines and other advancements in medicine would not have been possible. 

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