Henrietta Lacks

  • Removal of Henrietta Lacks' tissue sample

    Samples from the tumor in Henrietta's cervix are taken by Dr. Lawrence Wharton Jr.
  • Polio Vaccine at the HeLa Factory

    In Tuskegee, scientists and technicians produced mass amounts of HeLa cells so other scientists could prove that Jonas Salk's polio vaccine was effective. The other scientists proved this by mixing blood serum from vaccinated children with live poliovirus and HeLa cells.
  • New Methods for Freezing Cells

    A group of researchers used HeLa to develop new methods for freezing cells without harming them or changing them which then made it possible to send cells around the world. Researchers could also store cells without worrying about them.
  • Standardization of the Tissue Culture Field

    Gey was worried the the different materials and techniques other scientists were using would make it nigh on impossible to replicate experiments. So Gey and other colleagues organized a committee to standardize the technique of tissue culturing. THis was possible because now, thanks to the HeLa cells, researchers were all working with the same cells, in the same media, with the same equipment.
  • Chromosomes

    A geneticist in Texas mixed HeLa cells in a liquid in an accident that yielded surprising results. The chromosomes inside of the HeLa cells swelled and became visible. This eventually allowed researchers from Spain and Sweden to discover that normal human cells had 46 chromosomes.
  • Cellular Cloning

    Scientists in Colorado successfully used HeLa to grow cellular clones so they could utilize traits that are unique to certain cells.
  • Radiation, gravity, and cellular damage

    Scientists did many tests on HeLa cells to see how they'd react because there was such a huge amount of HeLa cells. They exposed them to radiation, put them in centrifuges that mimicked the conditions of deep sea diving or spaceflight, used them to test whether products caused cellular damage (instead of using animals for testing), and used them to test the effects of a variety of other things (like steroids, chemotherapy drugs, and hormones).
  • Cancer testing

    Chester Southam, a virologist, loaded a syringe with saline solution and HeLa cells and injected them into a cancer patient's arm in order to see if Henrietta's cancer would grow in her arm. He repeated this process with other cancer patients without disclosing what exactly he was doing.
  • Cancer Testing on Healthy Volunteers

    Southam repeated his cancer testing in healthy Ohioan prisoners.When this was successful, he moved onto gynecologic patients without telling them that he was injecting them with cancer.
  • Effects of Space Travel

    HeLa cells went in orbit so that researchers could study the effects of space travel. They found that normal, noncancerous cells grew normally but HeLa became more powerful and divided faster with each trip.
  • Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital

    Southam struck a deal with Emanuel Mandel, director of medicine at JCDH, to inject 22 patients with HeLa cancer cells. Three doctors refused citing the Nuremburg Trials because the patients didn't give consent.
  • Hybridal Research

    Scientist throughout the world used these hybrids to create monoclonal antibodies, special proteins used to create caner therapies, and to identify blood groups. Scientists also used hybrids to study the role of immunity in organ transplantation.
  • Human-Animal Hybrids

    British scientists, Henry Harris and John Watkins, fused HeLa cells with mouse cells and created the first cells that contained equal amounts of DNA from Henrietta and a mouse. This made it possible to study what genes do and how they worked. Harris also fused deactivated chicken cells with HeLa to see if it would activate the chicken cells. It worked and it showed scientists that something in cells regulated genes.
  • Gene Mapping

    Researchers at New York University discovered that human-mouse hybrids lost their human chromosomes over time which allowed scientists to map human genes to specific chromosomes by tracin the order in which genetic traits vanished.
  • Consent is required for all research

    The Board of Regents and its Medical Grievance Committee found Southam guilty of "fraud or deceit and unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine." This decision prompted the NIH to declare that to get funding for research on human subjects, all ethical requirements must be met, including detailed informed consent.
  • HeLa Contamination

    HeLa had, unknown to scientists and researchers, invaded other cell cultures which rendered all experiments inaccurate. Geneticist Stanley Garter discovered a rare genetic marker in HeLa called G6PD-A, which is found almost exclusively in African Americans. As some of the cell lines are known to be Caucasian, yet had the same genetic marker as HeLa, it could only be assumed that HeLa had invaded the other cultures.
  • HPV-18

    German virologist, Harald zur Hausen, discovered a new strain of HPV, called HPV-18. He tested HeLa for HPV-18 believing that that was what caused Henrietta's cervical cancer. HeLa tested positive.

    Molecular biologist Richard Axel infected HeLa cells with HIV by inserting a specific DNA sequence from a blood cell into HeLa cells which made it possible for HIV to infect HeLa. This allowed scientists to begin to understand how HIV infected cells
  • HPV Vaccine

    Harald zur Hausen used HeLa to study HPV and how it causes cancer. Scientists discovered that when they blocked HPV DNA, cervical cancer cells stopped being cancerous. This discovery would lead zur Hausen to win the Nobel Prize for an HPV vaccine.