A Woman Whose Cells Founded A Multi Million Dollar Industry

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A woman whose cells founded a multi-million dollar industry and provided the world with treatments for diseases such as leukemia, hemophilia, influenza and countless others yet almost no one knows her name. Her true identity was in the shadows for years after her death in 1951. Little did her family know that she lived on through her cell line which is estimated to have a cumulative weight of around 50 million metric tons today. For years after her death no one knew anything more about her other than the name given to her cell line: HeLa. When Rebecca Skloot heard of HeLa cells and the woman behind them in her biology class, she was immediately intrigued and proceeded to research her, Henrietta Lacks. She couldn’t find much, if any,…show more content…
Rebecca Skloot is a long time author in the field of science. Skloot worked for Radiolab, a show that focuses on science and philosophy and on PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW. She also worked primarily in narrative science writing, before publishing her debut book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta Lacks was a poor black woman from Virginia, living during the time of Jim Crow laws. When she had abdominal pain and felt a lump within her cervix she chose to visit John Hopkin’s hospital, one of the few facilities that provided healthcare to African Americans. Skloot’s chooses to describe Henrietta as a poor woman “born of slavery” to emphasise the point that race played a large role in Henrietta’s story (pg. 197). During this time, interracial marriage was barely made legal. For a colored person to contaminate a pure white person was illegal before this time, yet cells from a black woman contaminated the whole earth. For several years, scientists had been trying without success to keep human cells alive outside of the body. One doctor in particular, was George Gey. He was determined to be the first man to grow malignant cells in order to find the cause and cure for cancer. “Gey took any cells he could get his hands on—he called himself “the world’s most famous vulture, feeding on human specimens almost constantly.”( pg. 30). Henrietta was an exception to the many cells that went through the Gey’s laboratory because within 24 hours the cells had doubled. As long as
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