Major step taken in giving respect to Henrietta Lacks in use of her tumor cells

08/08/2013 11:21 AM

08/10/2013 5:21 PM

Finally Henrietta Lacks will get the respect she deserved to have 62 years ago.

Lacks, who was poor and black, died at age 31 of cervical cancer in 1951. Doctors removed some of her tumor cells without her consent, and ever since the “HeLa cells” they harvested have been growing and used for research in more than 74,000 studies, yielding invaluable information into cell biology, vaccines, in vitro fertilization and cancer, The New York Times reports.

But neither Lacks, her children, grandchildren nor great grandchildren received a dime or even recognition for the breakthroughs. Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 best seller, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” brought the matter to the public’s attention. The National Institutes of Health recently agreed with the Lacks’ family to give them some control — but no money — over how the genome is used.

Two members of the Lacks family will be members of the “HeLe Genome Data Access” working group. It’s a start, but certainly more can be done to right the “scientific” injustice to African-Americans in general and more specifically the Henrietta Lacks’ family.


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