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Monday, August 12, 2013

Do your cells belong to you? Maybe they do. Henrietta Lacks descendants recognized as having rights

Henrietta Lacks was a poor black woman who had cervical cancer, and eventually died of it, in 1951. Some cells from this cancer, taken without her consent, have been used in research for decades. It has been estimated that laboratories have many tons of cells derived from Mrs. Lacks. Some of those cells have been found in cell cultures supposed to have been free of them. The cells are known as HeLa cells, and I was taught, when in graduate school, that they were from a Helen Lane. Not so.

I have previously posted about this situation, especially about a book on the story, by Rebecca Skloot, entitled The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The Lacks story has ethical, medical, racial and other interesting aspects.

There is recent news. The Lacks family has now been given some voice in the use of the cells from their grandmother. See here and here for news stories on this matter. It's about time!


atlibertytosay said...

Although there's no mention of it … I wonder if there's money, compensation, or licensing involved as well.

Martin LaBar said...

I saw no mention of that, so I doubt it, but it's possible. The research is non-profit, mostly, as basic research usually is.

Thanks for your comment.