26. January 2022
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HeLa Cells: Cells of a Black woman who died of Cancer 70 years ago, still saves millions of lives!

New Delhi: Cells of Henrietta Lacks – popularly often called ‘HeLa cells’ within the medical neighborhood, are chargeable for numerous vital medical breakthroughs together with polio vaccine, cervical most cancers or Human Papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine and genetic mapping. Henrietta Lacks was an African American woman who died of cervical most cancers on October 4, 1951, on the age of 31 on the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

The John Hopkins hospital took out tissues from her physique with out her consent, resulting in the event of the primary ‘immortal line’ of human cells to divide indefinitely in a laboratory. Henrietta Lacks or HeLa cells have been instrumental within the growth of numerous life-saving medical breakthroughs like the event of the polio vaccine and medicines for HIV/AIDS, haemophilia, leukaemia, and Parkinson’s illness. HeLa cells have additionally been important within the growth of breakthroughs in reproductive well being, together with in vitro fertilisation.

On October 13, the 70 th dying anniversary of Henrietta, the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged the contribution that ‘HeLa’ cells have had in saving millions of lives and likewise deal with the “historic wrong” executed by not taking Henrietta’s consent earlier than utilizing her cells and likewise additional incorrect executed by hiding her identification.

“WHO acknowledges the importance of reckoning with past scientific injustices, and advancing racial equity in health and science,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus mentioned. He additional added, “It’s also an opportunity to recognise women – particularly women of colour – who have made incredible but often unseen contributions to medical science.”

Addressing the unethical means by which an African American woman’s cells had been procured, Tedros mentioned, “Henrietta Lacks was exploited. She is one of many women of colour whose bodies have been misused by science,” he mentioned. “She placed her trust in the health system so she could receive treatment. But the system took something from her without her knowledge or consent.

According to WHO, over 50 million metric tonnes of HeLa cells have been distributed across the globe and has been instrumental in over 75,000 medical studies, including the development of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“But the end does not justify the means. All it would have taken was for someone to do her the honour of asking. In honouring Henrietta Lacks today, WHO acknowledges the importance of reckoning with past injustices and advancing racial equity in health and science. Acknowledging the wrongs of the past is essential for building trust for the future. We also recognize the extraordinary potential that her legacy continues to offer. There are many more lives we can save by working for racial justice and equity,” mentioned Tedros.

He concluded by saying, “We stand in solidarity with marginalized patients and communities all over the world who are not consulted, engaged or empowered in their own care. We affirm that in medicine and in science. BlackLivesMatter. Henrietta Lacks’s life mattered, and still matters.”

Recently, Henrieta Lacks’ family sued the pharmaceutical company – Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., for reproducing and selling “stolen” cells for a revenue. According to American legislation, it’s now unlawful to extract a affected person’s cells for analysis with out their consent.  

“Indeed, Black suffering has fueled innumerable medical progress and profit, without just compensation or recognition. Various studies, both documented and undocumented, have thrived off the dehumanization of Black people,” reads the go well with, filed on October 4.

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