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HeLa Cells : How One Woman's Unique Cells Lead To Major Biological Science Advances
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HeLa Cells : How One Woman's Unique Cells Lead To Major Biological Science Advances - November 8, 2011, 10:37 AM

OSD, I think you're a molecular Biologist. You may get a kick out of this (if you didn't know already).

A few questions though which you may know the answer to; being that researchers used her cells, without her consent or knowledge, to create these drugs, would her family be entitled to royalties and financial compensation from the manufacturers?

Are there disclosures given to genetic material donors, although I as I understand it, most material donated/used/taken now almost immediately gets anonymized.

Even if there was a disclosure that the cells would be used for research, would her family be entitled to financial compensation as the research was then then used for commercial ventures and not just to further the academic sciences?

Brings up a lot of interesting questions about the advancement of medical science and research, the greater good of mankind, versus capitalism. If my cells are found to be the "magic beans" which are the basis of any number of drugs, vaccines, cures, or medical procedures - I would expect compensation.



Henrietta Lacks' cells were essential in developing the polio vaccine and were used in scientific landmarks such as cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.


Medical researchers use laboratory-grown human cells to learn the intricacies of how cells work and test theories about the causes and treatment of diseases. The cell lines they need are “immortal”—they can grow indefinitely, be frozen for decades, divided into different batches and shared among scientists. In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, created the first immortal human cell line with a tissue sample taken from a young black woman with cervical cancer. Those cells, called HeLa cells, quickly became invaluable to medical research—though their donor remained a mystery for decades. In her new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, journalist Rebecca Skloot tracks down the story of the source of the amazing HeLa cells, Henrietta Lacks, and documents the cell line's impact on both modern medicine and the Lacks family.

Who was Henrietta Lacks?
She was a black tobacco farmer from southern Virginia who got cervical cancer when she was 30. A doctor at Johns Hopkins took a piece of her tumor without telling her and sent it down the hall to scientists there who had been trying to grow tissues in culture

for decades without success. No one knows why, but her cells never died.

Why are her cells so important?
Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine. They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.


There has been a lot of confusion over the years about the source of HeLa cells. Why?
When the cells were taken, they were given the code name HeLa, for the first two letters in Henrietta and Lacks. Today, anonymizing samples is a very important part of doing research on cells. But that wasn’t something doctors worried about much in the 1950s, so they weren’t terribly careful about her identity. When some members of the press got close to finding Henrietta’s family, the researcher who’d grown the cells made up a pseudonym—Helen Lane—to throw the media off track. Other pseudonyms, like Helen Larsen, eventually showed up, too. Her real name didn’t really leak out into the world until the 1970s.
How did you first get interested in this story?
I first learned about Henrietta in 1988. I was 16 and a student in a community college biology class. Everybody learns about these cells in basic biology, but what was unique about my situation was that my teacher actually knew Henrietta’s real name and that she was black. But that’s all he knew. The moment I heard about her, I became obsessed: Did she have any kids? What do they think about part of their mother being alive all these years after she died? Years later, when I started being interested in writing, one of the first stories I imagined myself writing was hers. But it wasn’t until I went to grad school that I thought about trying to track down her family.
How did you win the trust of Henrietta’s family?
Part of it was that I just wouldn’t go away and was determined to tell the story. It took almost a year even to convince Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah, to talk to me. I knew she was desperate to learn about her mother. So when I started doing my own research, I’d tell her everything I found. I went down to Clover, Virginia, where Henrietta was raised, and tracked down her cousins, then called Deborah and left these stories about Henrietta on her voice mail. Because part of what I was trying to convey to her was I wasn’t hiding anything, that we could learn about her mother together. After a year, finally she said, fine, let’s do this thing.


When did her family find out about Henrietta’s cells?
Twenty-five years after Henrietta died, a scientist discovered that many cell cultures thought to be from other tissue types, including breast and prostate cells, were in fact HeLa cells. It turned out that HeLa cells could float on dust particles in the air and travel on unwashed hands and contaminate other cultures. It became an enormous controversy. In the midst of that, one group of scientists tracked down Henrietta’s relatives to take some samples with hopes that they could use the family’s DNA to make a map of Henrietta’s genes so they could tell which cell cultures were HeLa and which weren’t, to begin straightening out the contamination problem.


So a postdoc called Henrietta’s husband one day. But he had a third-grade education and didn’t even know what a cell was. The way he understood the phone call was: “We’ve got your wife. She’s alive in a laboratory. We’ve been doing research on her for the last 25 years. And now we have to test your kids to see if they have cancer.” Which wasn’t what the researcher said at all. The scientists didn’t know that the family didn’t understand. From that point on, though, the family got sucked into this world of research they didn’t understand, and the cells, in a sense, took over their lives.

How did they do that?
This was most true for Henrietta’s daughter. Deborah never knew her mother; she was an infant when Henrietta died. She had always wanted to know who her mother was but no one ever talked about Henrietta. So when Deborah found out that this part of her mother was still alive she became desperate to understand what that meant: Did it hurt her mother when scientists injected her cells with viruses and toxins? Had scientists cloned her mother? And could those cells help scientists tell her about her mother, like what her favorite color was and if she liked to dance.


Deborah’s brothers, though, didn’t think much about the cells until they found out there was money involved. HeLa cells were the first human biological materials ever bought and sold, which helped launch a multi-billion-dollar industry. When Deborah’s brothers found out that people were selling vials of their mother’s cells, and that the family didn’t get any of the resulting money, they got very angry. Henrietta’s family has lived in poverty most of their lives, and many of them can’t afford health insurance. One of her sons was homeless and living on the streets of Baltimore. So the family launched a campaign to get some of what they felt they were owed financially. It consumed their lives in that way.


What are the lessons from this book?
For scientists, one of the lessons is that there are human beings behind every biological sample used in the laboratory. So much of science today revolves around using human biological tissue of some kind. For scientists, cells are often just like tubes or fruit flies—they’re just inanimate tools that are always there in the lab. The people behind those samples often have their own thoughts and feelings about what should happen to their tissues, but they’re usually left out of the equation.

Read more: Henrietta Lacks




“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a Prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires”.

- Nicolo Machiavelli 1469-1527


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November 8, 2011, 11:21 AM

Quote:
A Statement From Johns Hopkins Medicine About HeLa Cells and Their Use

Release Date: 02/01/2010



February 1, 2010- In a new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Crown Books), Rebecca Skloot tells of the origin of the first “immortal” human cell culture line. So-called HeLa cells –taken from a cervical cancer patient, Mrs. Henrietta Lacks, at Johns Hopkins 60 years ago -- were grown in a laboratory at Johns Hopkins and distributed widely and freely for scientific research purposes thereafter. The novel cells were – and are -- a biomedical marvel, multiplying and surviving in an unprecedented way. HeLa cells have enabled scientists worldwide to study cancer and other diseases, to observe and test human cells as never before, and to do so in a standardized way across thousands of laboratories.

The following statement addresses some question raised by the book and its promotional materials about the lack of informed consent by Mrs. Lacks or her family to permit the use of her cells for scientific research; and about some financial issues related to their use.
Johns Hopkins Medicine sincerely acknowledges the contribution to advances in biomedical research made possible by Henrietta Lacks and HeLa cells. It’s important to note that at the time the cells were taken from Mrs. Lacks’ tissue, the practice of obtaining informed consent from cell or tissue donors was essentially unknown among academic medical centers. Sixty years ago, there was no established practice of seeking permission to take tissue for scientific research purposes. The laboratory that received Mrs. Lacks’s cells had arranged many years earlier to obtain such cells from any patient diagnosed with cervical cancer as a way to learn more about a serious disease that took the lives of so many. Johns Hopkins never patented HeLa cells, nor did it sell them commercially or benefit in a direct financial way. Today, Johns Hopkins and other research-based medical centers consistently obtain consent from those asked to donate tissue or cells for scientific research.


A Statement From Johns Hopkins Medicine About HeLa Cells and Their Use - 02/01/2010


*Not intended to be a factual statement.

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November 8, 2011, 12:27 PM

I wasn't referencing JH specifically, although they do hold some civil liability for harvesting and replicating the cells without consent, because regardless if there was or wasn't scientific protocol in existence at that time, there were laws regarding property rights. I was speaking more to the other companies who used the cells to create profitable procedures and drugs.


Consider if Rob asked me to look into some buggy lines of code in Forum Runner, and I decide to steal the code and freely distribute it on the net to other developers. I could not say, well, I didn't directly financially benefit to the code and Rob did give me access to the source code for review and analysis.

Also, JH put themselves in corner with this statement: "...or benefit in a direct financial way."
In a court of law, saying "I did not receive direct financial benefit" is just another way of saying, I did receive indirect financial benefit.



“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a Prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires”.

- Nicolo Machiavelli 1469-1527

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November 8, 2011, 04:52 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Heist View Post
Consider if Rob asked me to look into some buggy lines of code in Forum Runner, and I decide to steal the code and freely distribute it on the net to other developers. I could not say, well, I didn't directly financially benefit to the code and Rob did give me access to the source code for review and analysis.
If it were under GNU GPL, yes you could. It all depends on the agreement, and I'd argue that the defacto agreement when you ask a doctor to remove a tumor is that you no longer wish to be in possession of it. It would seem the courts have agreed more or less, so far.

It would be nice if the family got some money thrown their way... but there's no legal basis for making it happen.


*Not intended to be a factual statement.
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November 8, 2011, 04:59 PM

i was made fun of for posting about this GTFO..................


But they signed a consent form...i just went to a lecture a few weeks back about it...but its the fact there wasn't a simplified english version that they could understand


And johns hopkins didn't make any $ off it


[SIGPIC]http://www.griseldaonline.it/foto/6galleria/tradimenti/warhol%20last%20supper%201986.jpg[/SIGPIC]The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.

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November 8, 2011, 05:03 PM

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Originally Posted by Jw626 View Post
i was made fun of for posting about this GTFO..................


But they signed a consent form...i just went to a lecture a few weeks back about it...but its the fact there wasn't a simplified english version that they could understand


And johns hopkins didn't make any $ off it
i think it was just the randomness of the topic in the thread you posted it in that was funny.


*Not intended to be a factual statement.
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November 8, 2011, 05:13 PM

It was sort of related i think... LOL ...


[SIGPIC]http://www.griseldaonline.it/foto/6galleria/tradimenti/warhol%20last%20supper%201986.jpg[/SIGPIC]The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.

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November 10, 2011, 04:15 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jw626 View Post
i was made fun of for posting about this GTFO..................


But they signed a consent form...i just went to a lecture a few weeks back about it...but its the fact there wasn't a simplified english version that they could understand


And johns hopkins didn't make any $ off it
I am confused.



“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a Prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires”.

- Nicolo Machiavelli 1469-1527

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November 10, 2011, 04:17 PM

LOL...A few weeks back in a thread....we were talking about something related..and i brought up the Henrietta lacks story because i had to goto a lecture on it the next day...and caught some shit like normal for talking about it ..no biggie


But anyhow im off to enjoy some Fogo De Chao!


Edit: shit just saw what you quoted...Henrieta and her husband both signed consent forms with normal Jargon noone understands but stating the tumor etc wouldnt be theirs in Tech. terms as opposed to plain english.


[SIGPIC]http://www.griseldaonline.it/foto/6galleria/tradimenti/warhol%20last%20supper%201986.jpg[/SIGPIC]The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.

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November 10, 2011, 04:25 PM

Hmm. Cool info.


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Really Snipes? Thats how you get down??

I got $1000 on Snipes being the best at this shit!!

Who wanna put a stack up against that? Who the fuck is Snipes' competition?

That motherfucker through in some flat asses for 5150 then told him to stfu and enjoy!

Man Snipes is the Mike Jordan of this shit!!

This threads stock just rose like a SOB!
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November 10, 2011, 05:35 PM

Well it's not like she herself really did anything to advance our understanding of cell biology and cancer. Any profit made using her cells was really for the hard work of countless researchers. You can't just put some cells in a dish and get answers to the meaning of life without untold effort and hours away from family and friends.

Frankly, as a researcher at a NCI-designated cancer center, I'm a bit dismayed by complaints that greedy profiteers made fortunes on HeLa cells. It's simply not true. They may have made a living using HeLa cells in their experimentation, but it was their hard work that they sold, not the cells. Heck, most of us work a lot more than 40 hours a week for about the same salary as that of a Fairfax County Cop. Our whole mission is to improve the prevention, detection, and treatment of human diseases and the thanks we get is constant criticism for wanting to save some money for our retirements and for our own kids to go to school.


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November 10, 2011, 05:59 PM

OSD, well, this is not a sweeping indictment of the pharmaceutical or research industry.
I don't think anyone has qualms about researchers being compensated for their years in study, then years in training, and finally pretty thankless and unknown years practicing.

Everyone here can name who came up with the idea and helped develop the Iphone. I bet nearly no one could name who developed the vaccine for Chicken Pox or Small Pox. Which is more important?

And I know the sacrifice. I started out as a pharmacy major @ LIU and wanted to eventually move into pharmacology. After 5 months of lab work realized this was not the life for me. God help me the hours in the lab alone or with a partner, night fall after night fall, drove me over the brink one pipette at a time.



“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a Prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires”.

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November 10, 2011, 06:02 PM

well said, OSD


*Not intended to be a factual statement.
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November 10, 2011, 06:18 PM

Speaking of which, I spoke with a guy who was part of the research team that developed a new vaccine. They saw it from discovery to trials and finally FDA approval (no trivial task). The license was bought by a company, the research program ended, and the scientists have the pleasure of searching for new employment.

And that's life in the business.


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November 10, 2011, 06:36 PM

Pharmaceuticals are like education and health care in this country. Everyone wants them, but nobody wants to pay for them.


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