1920 - 1951
HeLa cell line
While not a scientist, Henrietta Lacks has been included in the Wall of Scientists due to her great contribution to science.
Without her knowledge or consent, her tumour cells were taken, resulting in the first immortalized human cell line, named HeLa. The same tumour that took Henrietta Lacks’ life is the source of numerous advances in medical care. Many profited from the use of the cells, often forgetting the woman from whom they originally belonged, and the racial inequity present in Henrietta Lacks’ story.
The HeLa cell line continues as a pillar of medical research, and despite ethical concerns, Lacks’ family agrees with its used, always remembering and acknowledging Henrietta Lacks and her story.
The HELA100 initiative highlights Henrietta Lacks’ legacy. Additionally, the WHO reminds us that to avoid perpetuating the injustice, medical advances done with the HeLa cell line should be available to everyone.
Written by: Enriqueta Vallejo-Yagüe.