Over 60 years ago, doctors took cells from a cancer patient in Baltimore. She died soon afterward, forgotten to everyone except her family. But her cells became immortal and famous – known as HeLa. HeLa cells were the first to grow reliably in a laboratory, and they’re still the most widely used today. They’re responsible for everything from the Polio vaccine to gene mapping. They’ve ridden into space and into oblivion on atomic weapons.
The Oprah Winfrey-lead film The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks premiers in a few days on HBO…but in 2010, Bob Edwards spent an hour with the author of the book on which this film is based, Rebecca Skloot, hearing the story of the woman from whom HeLa cells were taken without permission, and what happened to her family after she died. From the program introduction:
For sixty years, scientists all over the world have conducted research using Hela cells. They’re called Hela cells because they came from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. The scientists know the story of the cells, but not many have bothered to ask about Henrietta’s story. Well Rebecca Skloot did-and she spent ten years researching the life of a 30-year old African American mother of five who died of cervical cancer in the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in 1951. It would be another 25 years before Henrietta’s children learned about the involuntary contribution their mother left to medical science—a legacy that continues today.
Script/Roadmap also included below.