- Henrietta Lacks honored this week by the WHO at a ceremony for her contribution to modern medicine
- He died of cervical cancer in 1951 at Johns Hopkins, where doctors collected cells from his body without his consent
- lac cells were found to be able to multiply outside the body – the only cells found to be able to do so
- His cells were used to develop many scientific breakthroughs, such as the development of HPV and polio vaccines.
- Lax was called the ‘mother of modern medicine’ because her cells played a role in saving millions of lives around the world.
- Her family is still seeking compensation for Lax’s collection of cells without her knowledge.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has honored the life of Henrietta Lacks, a woman known as the ‘mother of modern medicine’.
Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951, but his legacy lives on in the millions of lives he has saved since then.
Before his death at age 31, doctors collected sample cells from his body without his or his family’s consent – a controversial move for which his family is still seeking compensation.
However, the cells, many of the first living and outside the body, led to many medical breakthroughs such as the development of polio and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines.
In a special ceremony hosted by global health leaders, Lacks was given an award posthumously to honor his legacy that has helped save ‘countless lives’.
Her 87-year-old son Laurence Lacks – one of her five children, who was just 17 at the time of her death – received the award on her behalf at a ceremony in Geneva on Wednesday.
Henrietta Lacks (pictured) has been called the ‘mother of modern medicine’ after cells from her body – first found to be able to multiply outside the body – were used for medical breakthroughs such as polio and HPV vaccines
Lacks died in 1951 at the age of only 31. He was survived by five children, including his son Lawrence, who this week accepted an honor from the WHO on his behalf. Pictured: Lax and her husband Davis in Baltimore, Maryland, early 1940s
Lax, born in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1920, died at Johns Hopkins from an aggressive form of cervical cancer specimens.
Her cells were collected by doctors without her or her family’s knowledge.
The cells were sent to a laboratory, where they were found to be the first living human cells to survive and multiply outside the human body, and became known as ‘immortals’.
His family is seeking compensation for the move, despite a court ruling in the 1990s that a person’s ‘abandoned tissue and cells’ are not their property and can be used for commercial purposes.
However, the family members thanked the WHO for the posthumous honor at the ceremony on Wednesday.
Lax’s great-granddaughter, Victoria Baptiste, said: “My family stands in solidarity with the WHO and our sisters around the world to ensure that no other wife, mother or sister dies unnecessarily from cervical cancer.”
‘As a registered nurse, I am proud to be here today to honor the legacy of my great grandmother, who advocates for ensuring equitable access to breakthroughs such as HPV and Covid-19 vaccines, such as her Healer cells have advanced.’
‘We are reclaiming her name, and her story and legacy lives on in us, and we thank her for calling her name Henrietta Lacks.’
Research on cells led to the polio vaccine, gene mapping and IVF treatment, as well as other advances, and has resulted in her being named the ‘mother’ of modern medicine.
Studies on cells also led to the development of the HPV vaccine, which protects against various cancers, including cervical cancer.
The cells became known as HeLa cells, containing the first two letters of the first and last names of Lax.
Lac’s cells were crucial in creating the HPV vaccine, which can block the virus that causes cervical cancer, which kills Lax (file photo)
Lacks was honored earlier this month with a statue (pictured) on the University of Bristol campus in England
Speaking at the ceremony, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said how racial inequality was tackled is still an issue.
She also honored other women of color who have contributed to science.
While acknowledging the mistakes of the past is essential to building confidence for the future, we also recognize the extraordinary potential that his legacy provides, Ghebreyesus said.
“While we can save many more lives by working for racial justice and equality, we stand in solidarity with marginalized patients and communities around the world who are not consulted, cared for or They are not given any rights.
‘We affirm that in medicine and science, Black Lives Matter, Henrietta Lacks lives matter, and still matter.
‘Today is also a day to recognize women of color who have made incredible, but often overlooked, contributions to medical science.’
he also took Twitter Monday to honor his legacy.
HeLa cells are used in almost every major hospital and science-based university in the world.
Over 50,000,000 metric tons of HeLa cells have been distributed worldwide, the subject of more than 75,000 studies
But it was only in 1975 that the family came to know about his legacy by chance.
Earlier this month, a statue of Lax was unveiled at the University of Bristol