Henrietta Lacks and the Impact of HeLa Cells on Science

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Henrietta Lacks, sometimes identified as Helen Lane, is home to the world’s first immortal human cells, her cells, known as HeLa cells, have been living outside of her body longer than they ever lived inside her body. The cells that were taken from her were cut from her cervix, where a tumor was growing I learned that these cells helped science develop broad new ways to save people’s lives. Scientists are still able to use them to figure out new ways to try and cure cancer or to research different diseases.

They helped with advances in medicines such as vaccinations, fertilization, and chemotherapy her cells were also the first cells to go into space on the first mission ever, they were used to see if zero gravity affected human cells in any way Henrietta was identified with a lot of different names. She is the only person I have heard about with so many different identities her binh name was Loretta Pleasant She was born in Roanoke, Virginia, on August 1, 1920.

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Henrietta was the ninth child out of ten When her mother, Eliza Lacks Pleasant, was giving birth to her tenth child she died. Her father, Johnny Pleasant, was not able to take care of all the kids by himself so they all moved to Clover, Virginia where all the siblings were separated from the family. Henrietta moved with her grandfather, Tommy Lacks, who was a tobacco farmer she was the second grandchild he had to take care of. The first was her cousin, David Lacks.

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This surprised me because they spent almost their whole lives together and they ended up getting married and having kids. One thing that I thought was sad was that she had to walk two miles to school every day and pass by the white school where they would bully her as she walked by she only attended school up until the sixth grade, after school, she helped out in the tobacco fields.

Henrietta was just fourteen years old when she and David started having kids together four years after that, lam guessing at the age of eighteen, she had another kid. To me, I think fourteen is way too young to have a kid because you are still a kid yourself. They eventually got married on April 10, 1941, after a long time of living on the tobacco fields, Henrietta and her family moved to Baltimore where they started a new life, I think that it was great that they got to move and start a new and better life Henrietta knew that there was something wrong with her, she could feel a knot in her womb. So, on January 29, 1951, she went to Johns Hopkins Hospital to see a doctor. When being examined, her doctor found exactly what she was talking about. It was a purple tumor growing on her cervix I find that Henrietta was special, not just because of her immortal cells, but because she knew what was wrong with her.

When most patients have a gut feeling, they end up by being wrong, but she was not, Her doctor cut a piece of the lump and sent it to the pathology lab to get a diagnosis. When Henrietta‘s doctor got her biopsy results back from the pathology lab he called her and told her the diagnosis was “Epidermoid carcinoma of the cervix, Stage I,” which means it was malignant. I think that it is sad that she did not tell anyone in her family, not even her husband, David, about the procedure she was about to have. For her first treatment they used radium, a white radioactive metal that they put into thin glass tubes, before putting this in her, one of the doctors collected samples from her cervix without her knowledge. After the sample was taken, the doctor put two tubes of radium inside her cervix and sewed her up. Henrietta’s sample from her cervix was sent to Dr. Gey’s lab. He is the doctor that is head of tissue culture research at John Hopkins Hospital. The Gey Chicken Bleeding Technique was his wife’s, Margret, idea.

This method has to be in a very sterile environment I think that it is crazy how much work has to go into just making sure there is not any “bad air” contaminating the cells Mary, Drr Gey’s assistant, cut Henrietta‘s cervix into squares to put them in test tubes that had chicken-blood clots in them. The clots then had to be covered with drops of culture medium when that part of the process was done, they then had to name the tubes with the first two letters of the patient’s first name and last name. This is how Henrietta’s cell became known as HeLa cell the cells then had to be put into an incubator room in this room there is a machine that rotates slowly, this is where the test tubes had to be placed. I feel like this process must be long, boring, and tiring just from reading about Mary’s reaction to it. After the radium treatment, Henrietta had to spend two more days in the hospital to recover, when the recovery process was over, a doctor removed the radium tubes from her and then she was free to go home.

Not long after being home, Mary realized that the clots had rings of white around them, She did not know, but the cells were actually growing. 1 find it insane how the cells just kept doubling every twenty-four hours, growing about twenty times faster than Henrietta’s normal cells. This was causing Mary to keep on dividing them and putting them into new tubes. Eventually, after Gey could not believe his eyes, he told his colleagues about them. Gey’s lab was the first to “create“ immortal human cells and his colleagues wanted some. Gey and his colleagues wanted to learn if cancer cells could be damaged or even wiped out. For this reason, he sent Henrietta’s cells to scientists all over the world for cancer research. These scientists then gave some of the cells to more scientists, this is how HeLa cells get to be used all over the world for research now Henrietta knew nothing about her cells being taken from her and being used for research.

She never loved the city where she and her family moved to. So, almost every weekend she would go back to Clover. Even though radium can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, and weakness, Henrietta never had any of those, this made her able to work in the tobacco fields where she grew up and churn butter on the steps of the house she spent most of her life in I think that not having any of the symptoms was great for her because she was able to do the things that she loves and able to take care of her family Keeping Henrietta’s life of cancer from everyone in the town was easy because she was completely fine after her first treatment. She only had to go back to Hopkins for a checkup and her second radium treatment, when she went, the doctors noticed that the tumor was shrinking. Even though this was happening, she still had to start X»ray therapy, or radiation treatment, just to make sure there were no cancer cells left.

The doctor marked two dots on her stomach area as a target to aim the radiation around the same spot every day, when Henrietta was almost finished with her treatments, she asked her doctor when she would be able to start having kids again. No one told her that those treatments meant that they would leave her infertile. At Hopkins, warning patients of this loss was supposed to be a standard practice once Henrietta found this out, she said that if she would have known of it before she started the treatments then she would not have done them at all. I think that doing the treatments were the best thing for Henrietta because the cancer could have come back a lot faster than it did, It is a good thing though that she already had multiple kids before this incident. She probably would have been even more upset about it if she had not, Eventually, her doctors discovered that she developed Gonorrhea. The radiation was not only helping her for a little while but it was also doing damage to her body. From the radiation, her skin was charred black from her breasts all the way to her pelvis.

I could not imagine how horrible this must have made her feel it was taking a huge toll on her body. Once again, Henrietta could feel something was wrong with her, she told her doctors more than once that she could “feel” cancer spreading inside heri Of course, the doctors found nothing wrong with her. The doctors checked her multiple times and each time it was the same result, nothing but, but once again, Henrietta was right. The cancer was spreading inside of her when the doctors took an X-ray, they saw that there was a huge mass attached to her pelvic wall. They labeled the mass “inoperable.” Even though this was going on inside of her, the doctors sent her home anyway Henrietta’s cousin, Sadie, said that she did not look bad. The only way that one could tell that she was sick was through her eyes I believe that she was lucky to not look bad because even though she was terribly sick, looking bad could have made her feel even worse. At this point everyone knew that she was sick cancer spread to even more parts of her body her doctors made her daily dose of radiation higher to see if that would help to shrink the tumors.

It did not, all it did was burn her skin even more. Henrietta ended up by staying at the hospital after one of her treatments because she was feeling too bad to be home, Dri Gey wanted more of her cells to see if they would grow like the last ones he took from her, but they did not. Her body was too contaminated with toxins her children were only able to visit her in the hospital for a few days before the nurse told David that seeing them was making her too upset. I think that it is sad that her children were not able to be there for her final days. Also, they barely got to know her before she got sick the doctors tried a number of medicines to try and ease her pain; only one worked but only for a short period of time I believe that the doctors might have not done everything in their power to help her just because she was a “colored” woman, even though they did say that they were doing all that could be done.

The cancer was spreading to even more places and at a quick pace. By the month of September, Henrietta’s body was almost fully engulfed in tumors. Her stomach was so swollen, the tumors made her look as though she was six months pregnant once again, I could not even imagine how she felt her doctors had to keep on giving her blood transfusions in order to try to help her body get rid of the toxins in it. Henrietta’s cousin, Emmett, and some of his friends went to Hopkins because he heard that she needed more blood when Emmett first saw Henrietta in her bed he saw straps around her wrists and ankles attached to the bed. He soon found out what this was for. Her body got as stiff as a board and she started screaming from the pain.

A nurse had to tighten the straps to keep her from moving; Glady, Henrietta’s sister, had to put a pillow in Henrietta’s mouth so she would not bite her tongue; and Henrietta‘s cousin, Sadie, stroked her hair to keep her calm. On the date of September 24, 1951, Henrietta was injected with a big dose of morphine. After that, she was only allowed painkillers when Henrietta woke two days later, she did not know where she was at but she did know that she was soon going to die. She told her sister to make sure that her kids were going to be well taken care of after she passed, on October 4, 1951 at 12:15 am, the home of the world’s first immortal cells, HeLa cells, passed away.

Dealing with the cancer was not easy for her but she never showed it, until her final days I had never heard of HeLa cells until I started reading this book. I am really glad I got the chance to read it because it helped me to better understand how the research of different diseases takes place. There are things that were talked about in the book that we were learning about in class, an example is the process of mitosis Mitosis is the process of cell division that helps with growth, repair, and development. One small mistake in this process can lead to the development of cancer. That is exactly what happened with Henrietta’s cells, how are her cells still growing and dividing today? That is still a mystery.

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Henrietta Lacks and the Impact of HeLa Cells on Science. (2023, Feb 21). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/the-life-of-henrietta-lacks-and-the-use-of-her-cells-hela-immortal-cells-in-scientific-research-essay

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