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Transcript of HeLa Cells
The "HeLa Bomb"
In 1966 it was discovered that HeLa cells were contaminating cell lines worldwide
Scientists sought the identity of HeLa donor to get her family's DNA in order to find markers to differentiate HeLa from other cells
Without her knowledge, a sample of her tumor was given to Dr. George Gey who "immortalized" her cells in his lab
They continued to grow at an alarming rate outside her body
An Historical Perspective
Henrietta died 8 months later
No consent to use her cells was obtained
Sixty years later they are still being used internationally
HeLa Cells Contributions
The Polio Vaccine
Hepatitis B Vaccine
Effect of zero gravity on cells
In vitro fertalization
Monoclonal Antibodies - Herceptin
Effect of radiation on cells
HIV antiviral medications
Dr. George O. Gey
Dr. Gey did not profit directly from the HeLa cells
HeLa cells have sold for billions of dollars
Invitrogen sells HeLa vials from $100 to $10,000
There are over 17,000 patents on HeLa cells
The Lacks Family
Dr. Gey never corrected an early story that the donor was named "Helen Lane".
For 20 years Henrietta's family were unaware that her cells were being used in research...until the Gold book named her.
The family was asked for blood samples under the guise that it was to see if they carried her "cancer gene"- their blood was really needed to identify genetic markers in HeLa DNA
Issues of Privacy & Confidentiality
In 1985 Michael Gold published a book on the contamination - he used extensive quotes from Henrietta's medical record - her name, that she had syphilis, details of her dying and even the autopsy report...the family had never even seen the records that were leaked to the author by someone at Hopkins
In 1951 at age 30 Henrietta was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer at Johns Hopkins