March 25: Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951)

Henrietta Lacks was a Black woman whose cells, known as HeLa cells, became the basis of numerous scientific breakthroughs and medical discoveries. Born in Virginia, she moved to Baltimore where she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. During her treatment, her cancer cells were collected without her knowledge or consent and were found to have an unusual ability to multiply and survive outside the body. These cells were used extensively in scientific research and were instrumental in developing the polio vaccine, studying cancer, and advancing our understanding of cell biology. Henrietta Lacks' story highlights important ethical considerations regarding informed consent and the use of human tissue in scientific research. Her legacy is remembered through the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, which supports education and health initiatives in underserved communities. She is sometimes referred to as the “immortal woman.”


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