Like many forgotten heroes of the past, Henrietta Lacks finally got a headstone this past weekend. The southern tobacco farmer and cancer victim, who died 60 years ago, is credited to have cells (taken without her knowledge) that scientists used to developed the modern polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization, cloning and gene mapping.
The profit from her cells, which have been bought and sold by the billions, was never apportioned to her Baltimore family after death. Lacks gained attention with the release of Rebecca Skloot’s book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks earlier this year.
The Virginian-Pilot reports:
The family was finally able to honor his mother with the headstone in her beloved Clover, where she’d rested for decades in an unmarked grave.
“She has done so much for us, her children, everyone else, in so many ways,” Lawrence Lacks said.
For decades, Henrietta Lacks was known in the medical and research community as “HeLa,” the name given to the first human cell line that allowed doctors to see how cells work. Since then, HeLa cells have been used to help find the vaccine for polio and treatments for leukemia, hemophilia and Parkinson’s disease.
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