HeLa Cells are Important to Science
Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman in the 1950’s, unknowingly had samples taken from her cervical cancer specimen and changed science from that point on. Due to the continuous self-reproduction of the cells, HeLa cells are the most important cell line ever discovered by scientists to date! Popsci.com gave five reasons of why HeLa cells are so important to society. Popsci.com explained, “1. Before HeLa cells, scientists spent more time trying to keep cells alive than performing actual research on the cells. An endless supply of HeLa cells freed up time for discovery .2. In 1952, the worst year of the polio epidemic, HeLa cells were used to test the vaccine that protected millions. 3. Some cells in Lacks’ tissue sample behaved differently than others. Scientists learned to isolate one specific cell, multiply it, and start a cell line. Isolating one cell and keeping it alive is the basic technique for cloning and in-vitro fertilization. 4. A scientist accidentally poured a chemical on a HeLa cell that spread out its tangled chromosomes. Later on, scientists used this technique to determine that humans have 46 chromosomes—23 pairs—not 48, which provided the basis for making several types of genetic diagnoses. 5. It was discovered that Lacks’ cancerous cells used an enzyme called telomerase to repair their DNA, allowing them, and other types of cancer cells, to function when normal cells would have died. Anti-cancer drugs that work against this enzyme are currently in early clinical trials.” Many doctors and scientists have refused to work with HeLa cells because the individuals have 2
claimed that it is unethical to take cell samples without a patient’s consent. But how important is that consent when you look at all the scientific improvements from the HeLa cells? It would be unethical to deprive the rest of the world of the scientific advancements that came from experimenting with Henrietta Lack’s cells! HeLa cells are...
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