Imagine a small number of your cells were harvested while seeking medical care. But instead of just being used for research into your own health, those cells are used for 62 years and in over 74,000 studies. Those studies lead to breakthroughs in cell biology, vaccines, in vitro fertilization and cancer.
Meanwhile, you and your descendants are never told by the researchers about the use of your family’s genetic material, and none of you ever receive even a fraction of the millions of dollars made from it.
That’s exactly what happened to Henrietta Lacks and her descendants. In 1951 when Lacks was 31-years-old, doctors harvested her cells and researchers have been using them ever since—while giving none of the profits to the Lacks family.
But this week, the National Institutes of Health decided to change that.
Rebecca Skloot, author “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” explains.