The Immortal Cell

It is interesting to discover where certain terms come from. Why did science name ‘X’ this, or why did so-and-so coin ‘Y’ term as they did. I have heard the term “HeLa cells” before, but whether I was listening or not is a mystery considering my lack of interest in science during my high school years. Yet, during class I was intrigued and left in awe of Henrietta Lacks’ amazing immortal cells. I decided to expand on this topic in my free time.

Some interesting facts about Henrietta’s cells, was that the HeLa cells were the first used to make the polio vaccine. They were also the first cells to be sent up to space to see what would happen in zero gravity. Her cells have been used for cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization. These immortal cells were used for so many medical and scientific advancements. Several years after Henrietta passed away, a scientist discovered that other cells from different types of tissue, such as breast and prostate tissue, were actually HeLa cells. Also, HeLa cells could travel on dust particles from person to person, and this caused a contamination problem. In order to straighten out this issue, the scientist attempted to contact Henrietta’s family and spoke to her husband who had no more than a third grade education. The way he was able to understand the situation was by telling him that his wife was alive in a lab where she was being tested, and now his kids would need to be tested for cancer.

Overall, I think this story is extremely interesting and has given so many advantages to modern medicine. Attached is the link to the article I found of the interview of the scientist who was involved in the research and contacting Henrietta’s family. It also has many interesting facts about HeLa cells.

-Mattie Martin


One thought on “The Immortal Cell

  1. These cells are super interesting, and the story behind it is definitely an eye opener. It saddens me to know that while her cells are bringing knowledge to scientists all over the globe, her own husband is still struggling with a 3rd grade education… That is heartbreaking.


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