Medical Breakthrough: Miracle Woman Saves Lives But Remains Unknown

Dometi Pongo


A poor, black female tobacco farmer, now known to the medical world as Henrietta Lacks, has her story told by Rebecca Skloot in her book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

If you’re not familiar with Henrietta Lacks, you may not be alone. Though not widely known to the public at large, her DNA become one of the most important contributions to modern medicine.

Lacks, born in 1920, sought medical attention at Johns Hopkins when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 30. Scientists noticed that her cells behaved differently than people they’ve treated before. Though the rapid reproduction of cells caused her cancer to spread, resulting in multiple tumors, researcher George Gey saw an opportunity.

Lacks’ cells could be multiplied at unbelievable rates and preserved. In English, they can be used to find cures for a multitude of diseases. Doctors call them HeLa cells, the first…

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