“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and HeLa Cells

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Throughout time there has always been different perspectives on whether you learn more from failure or success. They always say if you fail to always keep trying until you succeed, but once you succeed what happens next? I disagree with the scientist’s statement because Skloot’s account of the story does not support it.

The novel “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, due to the success of tissue culture researcher Dr. George Gey can further dispute this quote. His success in tissue culture led to further discoveries and became one of the most important advancements in modern medicine. The world was able to learn from his success. On February 5th, 1951, Henrietta Lacks received her first cancer treatment. During this time, she also had “two dime size pieces of tissue from her cervix: one from her tumor, and one from her healthy cervical tissue” (pg.33) shaved off. These tissue samples were then given to Dr. George Gey with the hope that the cells would grow outside the body in culture. Henrietta’s cells were then brought to Gey’s lab, cut up and distributed into dozens of roller tubes and then placed into a roller drum. Dr. Gey’s assistant, two days later noticed the cells were not just growing normally but at a rapid rate. Dr. Gey then began to tell his close colleagues that he may be very close to having the first immortal human cells.

Many of George Gey’s colleagues felt that he should publish research papers on HeLa so that he can be credited for his innovation, but he always claims to be too busy. After much prodding from Mary Kubicek and Margaret Gey, he finally writes a short excerpt of his work with the cells. Gey’s success began many experiments for other scientists throughout the world. With using Henrietta Lack Cells Dr. Gey found a way to grow cells outside the human body successfully. Everyone around the world knew about Dr. Gey and what he did for the scientific world.

HeLa cells were sent from coast to coast and from country to country. Every scientist around the world was able to learn from Dr. Gey’s success. “The reason Henrietta’s cells were so precious was because they allowed scientists to perform experiments that would have been impossible with a living human (pg. 58). Dr. Gey success helped him and many other scientists learn new techniques with cell culture and treatments for illness just off Henrietta Lacks cells. He had gained lots of attention from fellow scientists and people around the world for what he accomplished. This let Dr. Gey obtain lots of success that still is talked about today.

The success of the HeLa cell line helped accomplished in creating a vaccine for polio. The Tuskegee institute led to the first-ever cell production factory using the HeLa cells in helping the Salk vaccine become effective for the polio virus (pg.96). The staff of the institute were producing six trillion cells every week. This led to millions of lives being saved because the HeLa cell line helped create a virus for polio. This disputes the scientists statement because the HeLa cells proved to be effective in creating the vaccine.

The HeLa cells also helped uncover how Henrietta’s cancer started and why her cells never died (pg.212). Research of HPV helped the understanding of what occurred with Henrietta’s cancer because she was infected with multiple copies of HPV-18. If her cells had died in that lab, a German virologist named Harald zur Hausen would never have discovered what Henrietta had. This goes to show that the HeLa cells being immortal proves to be beneficial because of what scientists can learn from the success of the cell line (pg.212).

The HeLa cells also aided in the research of HIV/AIDS. A molecular biologist named Richard Axel, infected HeLa cells with HIV (pg. 214). This led to the knowledge of getting a step closer in understanding the virus and maybe potentially stopping it. Axel would not have been able to accomplish his research without the use of the HeLa cell line which proves that you can learn from success and go beyond further into research.

This portrays that through Dr. Gey’s success, scientists who received the HeLa cells and the world all around proved the point that you can learn from success. After you succeed from something, this does not always mean you can not learn anything anymore. Once you succeed with something, there’s always the point of where you can go beyond of what you accomplished.

Cite this paper

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and HeLa Cells. (2021, Oct 03). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks-and-hela-cells/

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