Tag: Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks, Source of Famous HeLa Cells, to be Honored with Building at Johns Hopkins University

Henrietta Lacks (photo via nbcnews.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to the Associated Press, Johns Hopkins University and the family of Henrietta Lacks announced a new building on the school’s campus in East Baltimore will be named after the woman whose cells were taken without her consent and widely used in revolutionary cell research.

News outlets report the building will support programs promoting research and community engagement. Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951 at the university where researchers soon discovered her cells reproduced indefinitely in test tubes.

For decades, it was not widely known that a black woman who was a patient at Hopkins was the unwitting source of the famous HeLa cells. It was only once Rebecca Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, was published in 2010 that Lacks’ story gained national attention. Oprah Winfrey subsequently produced and starred in a 2016 HBO biopic of Lacks’ life.

The announcement was part of the 9th Annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture, NBC 4 reports. Lacks’ granddaughter, Jeri Lacks, says the honor befits her grandmother’s role in advancing modern medicine.

Last year, the city of Baltimore designated October 4 as Henrietta Lacks Day to recognize the contributions of the woman behind the HeLa cells.

Henrietta Lacks, “The Mother of Modern Science,” to be Honored with Painting by Kadir Nelson in National Portrait Gallery

Collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift from Kadir Nelson and the JKBN Group LLC. (image via nmaahc.si.edu)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to the Smithsonian Institute, next Tuesday, its National Portrait Gallery will recognize and honor the life of Henrietta Lacks with the installation of a 2017 portrait by Kadir Nelson on the museum’s presentation wall on the first floor. The portrait was jointly acquired by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture as a gift from Nelson and the JKBN Group LLC, and will be shared by the two museums. The painting will be on display at the Portrait Gallery through Nov. 4.

Lacks, a mother of five, lost her life to cervical cancer at age 31. During her treatment, doctors took cells from her body and discovered they lived long lives and reproduced indefinitely in test tubes. These “immortal” HeLa cells have since contributed to over 10,000 medical patents, aiding research and benefiting patients with polio, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.

Considering the history of medical testing on African Americans without their permission, the fate of Lacks raised questions about ethics, privacy and racism. Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, addressed those issues and later prompted Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions to adapt her story into a theatrical movie that first aired on HBO in 2017.

“It is fitting that Henrietta Lacks be honored at two Smithsonian museums, as each approaches American history from unique and complementary perspectives,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “Lacks’ story presents moral and philosophical questions around issues of consent, racial inequalities, the role of women, medical research and privacy laws, providing rich platforms for historical understanding and public dialogue.”

“The National Museum of African American History and Culture has always felt that the story of Henrietta Lacks is a significant and important moment that deserved greater recognition,” said Lonnie Bunch, director of the museum.

Commissioned by HBO, Nelson used visual elements to convey Lacks’ legacy. The wallpaper features the “Flower of Life,” a symbol of immortality; the flowers on her dress recall images of cell structures; and two missing buttons allude to the cells taken from her body without permission.

“The HeLa Project” Exhibition Travels to NY, ATL to Honor Mortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Before Premiere of HBO Film

(image via wn.com)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Exhibition to Feature Artist Kadir Nelson and Poet Saul Williams.

HBO recently announced the official launch of “The HeLa Project,” a culturally-grounded, multi-media exhibition inspired by the highly-anticipated HBO film, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne, which will premiere on April 22. Directed by George C. Wolfethe film is based on Rebecca Skloot’s critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller of the same name.

The film tells the true story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cells were used to create the first immortal human cell line that ultimately led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs, changing countless lives and the face of medicine forever.

“The HeLa Project” is designed to celebrate Henrietta Lacks, the woman – to give her a voice and to humanize and recognize her. The exhibition features an original portrait by two-time Caldecott Honor Award winning artist Kadir Nelson and an original poem by Saul Williams. Additional art, curated by Lewis Long of Long Gallery Harlem, includes works by Derrick Adams, Zoe Buckman, Madeleine Hunt Ehrlich, Doreen Garner, and Tomashi Jackson.  The product of these elements, plus an educational, sculptural installation about the HeLa cells, all converge in this engaging experience.

(image vialewis museum.org)

The  exhibition debuted last week in Baltimore at the Reginald Lewis Museum, and  will run April 7th – April 9th in SoHo, New York (465 W. Broadway, Fri – Sat, 11am – 7pm, Sun 12pm – 5pm).

“The HeLa Project” will be making additional stops in Atlanta, GA on April 13th – April 16th at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Oprah Winfrey to Executive Produce and Star in “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” for HBO Films

Oprah Winfrey (i) and Henrietta Lacks (r)
Oprah Winfrey (i) and Henrietta Lacks (r)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

According to Variety.comOprah Winfrey will star in the adaptation of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” for HBOFilms. Winfrey’s Harpo Films optioned Rebecca Skloot‘s 2010 best-seller years ago, and it with her commitment to star as well as executive produce, it will finally be produced this summer.  Skloot will serve as a co-executive producer. George C. Wolfe, who adapted the memoir, will also direct.

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” tells the true story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cells (HeLa cells) were used to create the first immortal human cell line, which helped scientists make unprecedented medical breakthroughs, including Jonas Salk’s development of the polio vaccine.

Told through the eyes of her daughter, Deborah Lacks, played by Winfrey, the film chronicles her search to learn about the mother she never knew and to understand how the unauthorized harvesting of Lacks’ cancerous cells in 1951 changed countless lives and the face of medicine forever.

Henrietta Lacks’ sons  Zakariyya Rahman and David Lacks, Jr. and granddaughter Jeri Lacksare will serve as consultants on the HBO project.

NIH Finally Makes Good with Henrietta Lacks’ Family – And It’s About Time, Ethicist Says

This 1940s photo made available by the family shows Henrietta Lacks. In 1951, a doctor in Baltimore removed cancerous cells from Lacks without her kno...

Over the past six decades, huge medical advances have sprung from the cells of Henrietta Lacks, a poor, African-American mother of five who died in 1951 of cervical cancer. But Lacks never agreed that the cells from a biopsy before her death taken could be used for research. For years, her own family had no idea that her cells were still alive in petri dishes in scientists’ labs.

They eventually learned they had fueled a line called HeLa cells, which have generated billions of dollars, but they didn’t realize until this spring that her genome had been sequenced and made public for anyone to see. 

On Tuesday, the National Institute of Health announced it was, at long last, making good with Lacks’ family. Under a new agreement, Lack’s genome data will be accessible only to those who apply for and are granted permission. And two representatives of the Lacks family will serve on the NIH group responsible for reviewing biomedical researchers’ applications for controlled access to HeLa cells. Additionally, any researcher who uses that data will be asked to include an acknowledgement to the Lacks family in their publications.

The new understanding between the NIH and the Lacks family does not include any financial compensation for the family. The Lacks family hasn’t, and won’t, see a dime of the profits that came from the findings generated by HeLa cells. But this is a moral and ethical victory for a family long excluded from any acknowledgment and involvement in genetic research their matriarch made possible.

It took more than 60 years, but ethics has finally caught up to a particularly fast-moving area of science: taking tissue samples for genetic research. Thanks to the efforts of a dogged journalist, some very thoughtful science leaders in Europe and the U.S., and an ordinary family willing to learn about a complex subject and then to do the right thing to help you and me and our descendants, a long-standing wrong has now been fixed. 

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