November 29, 2017
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
In part three the family is finally discovered as relatives of the famous HeLa donor. Once scientist knew the where related to Henrietta the wanted to get samples from them to see if they would have as much luck as they did with hers. They sent out someone to get samples from the Lacks family. The person that was sent was under the impression that the family knew about the infamous HeLa cells and about Henrietta’s big contribution to science. In all actuality, the family did not know anything and was outrage to know that other people was making money off of Henrietta’s cells and they did not receive a dime from it. The family wanted to blame Dr. Grey and the Hopkins Hospital, but the truth is, they did not profit from the cells either. After finding this out, Deborah Lacks began to want to know more about what happened to her mother. She started to think that instead of taking blood samples from them, they were instead being injected with the cancerous cells. When Deborah married her husband, he declared her to get a lawyer, but she wanted to move on from the HeLa situation. She got a hold on Michael Gold’s book that had excruciating details of what happened to her mom while undergoing the whole medical process.
A few years later, a German virologist figured out why Henrietta’s cancer was so aggressive. Henrietta was diagnosed with HPV-18, which is a severe case of the Human Papilloma Virus. The virologist found out that the virus entered the eleventh chromosome and turned off the gene that suppresses tumors. This was the reason why her condition was so unique.
Her cells informed researchers that only matured cells can possibly be immortal. Normal cells are only able to divide a specific amount of time they start dying. Hella cells, just like any other cell, had telomeres. Telomeres has the power to renew the ends off DNA strings in chromosomes. In regular cells, the telomeres shortens the time the cell divides. Once the cell has no more telomeres, the cell dies. With HeLa cells the telomeres keeps renewing which causes the cell to keep dividing and never die.
The family attended Roland Pattillo’s conference at Morehouse because they were honoring Henrietta’s contribution to science. He organized the first HeLa Symposium and ended up getting the mayor to proclaim October 11 as Henrietta Lacks Day. This was going to be the first time Henrietta’s family is noticed by the people in the science community. Although the trip was not ideal, Deborah said a speech the indicated how much she misses her mother. Which started the Turner Station Heritage Committee wanting to recognize Henrietta for being a former resident and for her donation to the world. All the talk about starting a museum made Deborah overwhelmed, but she eventually gave in because she believe that this would gain her m...