Tuesday, February 2, 2010


HeLa cells tissue cultures have been instrumental in the development of Polio vaccine and numerous other researches that deal with growing of viruses in laboratory.

I myself have come across HeLa cell lines when I did my Masters in the States and I believe many more scientists and research workers out there have used HeLa cell lines.

Sadly and in fact outright rude for us not to know from whom the cells came from. I only knew whose cells were they today after reading an article in Yahoo.

I don't know whose fault it was, but I think apartheid might be one of the main reasons behind it.

The owner of the immortal cells was a 30-year old Black tobacco farmer from South Virginia by the name of Henrietta Lack who was suffering from cervical cancer. It was in the 50's.

A doctor after removing the cancer from her, passed the tissue to a tissue culture lab across the hall and then began the so-called immortal cell lines.

It survives till now, that is more than half a century later.

Before, scientists had difficulty to maintain human cell lines. They usually died in the process, but not Henrietta Lack's cells. They grow indefinitely.

Henrietta Lack's family did not get anything from her mother's cells, not even a word of thanks from the users.

It was only the writer of the article that I have just read who painstakingly searched for the children and found Deborah, the daughter of Henrietta.

Only then Deborah knew that it was her mother who had supplied the scientific world with the famous HeLa cell lines.

But sadly she does not get anything for her mother's great contribution to mankind. No matter, Deborah knows that her mother was watching from up there, probably with a smile, knowing that they were her cells that had saved millions of lives through countless researches carried ot till now.

Thank you Henrietta Lack. Your suffering had brought joy to many. Rest in peace.

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