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Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture 2018

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Francis Collins standing with Roland Pattillo and Lacks family members

I enjoyed delivering the keynote address at the Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture 2018 on October 6 at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. Afterwards, I had the pleasure of meeting with members of the Lacks family and Roland Pattillo, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta. From left to right is David Lacks, Jr., Devin Lacks, Alyana Rogers, Francis Collins, Roland Pattillo, Jabrea Rogers, Jeri Lacks Whye, and Dorian Lacks. Credit: Joshua Franzos


HeLa Cells: A New Chapter in An Enduring Story

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Brightly colored cells

Caption: Multiphoton fluorescence image of HeLa cells stained with the actin binding toxin phalloidin (red), microtubules (cyan) and cell nuclei (blue). NIH-funded work at the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research. Credit: Tom Deerinck

One of the first things a biomedical researcher learns is that it’s very hard to grow most human cells in the lab for an extended period. In fact, once removed from the human body, most cells will either die immediately or reproduce only a limited number of times. That’s why it was so significant in 1951 that this barrier was overcome for the first time, using cancer cells taken from a 31 year old African American woman named Henrietta Lacks.